Sunday, December 11, 2005

Photos of the fist computers


Secrets of ENIAC. Pretty photos of one of the first computers in the world - ENIAC.
The Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) was among the very first computers-some say it was the first, though there are competing claims. Built at Penn from 1942 to 1946, its work was the most prosaic imaginable: calculating missile ballistics and later helping with the design of the hydrogen bomb. Looking back from today, with every facet of society permeated by super-fast, ultra-miniaturized, all-but-invisible computers, the ENIAC seems ludicrously clunky and primitive. But this is where it all began.

On a more personal level, these images commemorate my family's connections to Penn in the mid-20th century, and with the group that developed the ENIAC in particular. Both of my mother's parents and two great uncles did their graduate work at Penn: my grandfather, Ralph Young, in the Economics department (where he later taught), my grandmother, Louise Young, in History, my great uncle, Chick Merwin, in Economics, and his brother, Dick Merwin, in the Moore School of Electrical Engineering, which later spawned the department of Computer and Information Science, on whose faculty I now serve.

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