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John Mauchly's Early Years

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129446D
Original Publication Date: 1984-Apr-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-06

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

KATHLEEN R. MAUCHLY: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

The paper describes John w. Mauchly's experiences and experiments that led to his concept of an electronic digital computer based on mechanical desk calculators during the years he was teaching at Ursinus College (1933-1941), his interaction with John V. Atanasoff of Iowa State College, and the environment at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania that led to the eventual proposal (1943) for building the electronic ENIAC.

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THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

Copyright ©; 1984 by the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. Used with permission.

John Mauchly's Early Years

KATHLEEN R. MAUCHLY

  (Image Omitted: © 1984 by the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. Permission to copy without fee all or part of this material is granted provided that the copies are not made or distributed for direct commercial advantage, the AFIPS copyright notice and the title of the publication and its date appear, and notice is given that the copying is by permission of the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. To copy otherwise, or to republish, requires specific permission. Author's Address: 1230 Cedar Road, Ambler PA 19002. © 1984 AFIPS 0164-1239/84/020116-138

John Mauchly's Early Years

KATHLEEN R. MAUCHLY .00/00)

The paper describes John w. Mauchly's experiences and experiments that led to his concept of an electronic digital computer based on mechanical desk calculators during the years he was teaching at Ursinus College (1933-1941), his interaction with John V. Atanasoff of Iowa State College, and the environment at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania that led to the eventual proposal (1943) for building the electronic ENIAC.

Categories and Subject Descriptors: A.0 [General] -- biographies. J. W. Mauchly; K. [History of Computing] -- ENIAC, hardware, J. W. Mauchly, people General Terms: Design, Experimentation, Human Factors Additional Key Words and Phrases: J. V. Atanasoff, J. P. Eckert, Moore School, differential analyzer, litigation

Foreword

It is well known that many aspects of the ENIAC development are controversial, but it is the belief of the editors of the Annals that the publication of a variety of views of this development -- by participants, observers, and scholars -- will help clarify an important part of computing history. One of these views is given in the following narrative by John W. Mauchly's widow. It reports the flavor of the times before the ENIAC and introduces some new information about Mauchly's thinking and objectives.

A central feature of the ENIAC controversy is the 1971-1973 Honeywell versus Sperry Rand litigation, which put much historical information into the public record. Kathleen R. Mauchly refers to this trial for some parts of her story and explains, in her preface, why some important details of her narrative were not put into evidence there. The reader should remember that litigation is an adversary procedure conducted by lawyers who are fundamentally concerned with winning their cases. Any contribution their efforts may make to the discovery of the truth is secondary to this basic aim. In court, witnesses are questioned to elicit answers that will support the questioners' cases. Indeed, a frequent admonition to young trial lawyers is: "Never ask a question of a witness in court to which you do...