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Clifford Edward Berry, 1918-1963: His Role in Early Computers

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129525D
Original Publication Date: 1986-Oct-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-06
Document File: 11 page(s) / 46K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

JEAN R. BERRY: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

A remarkable team of two scientists, John V. Atanasoff and Clifford E. Berry, together invented the world's first digital computer. Atanasoff came up with the concept of using the digital approach one winter night at a small tavern in Illinois. The need for a fast computer had been on his mind for some time, as a way to help his graduate students at Iowa State College (now University) speed their calculations. He needed someone with a talent for inventing and a thorough knowledge of electronics to work with him on this project. Atanasoff recalls the exact spot on the campus -- where the sidewalk leaving Beardshear Hall and heading toward the bookstore crossed the walk leading to Engineering -- that he met the head of the Engineering Department and stopped to chat. Atanasoff said that he had managed to get some financial backing, and he asked if the dean could suggest an electrical engineering graduate with a thorough knowledge of electronics to work with him. Without a second's hesitation, the dean suggested Clifford Edward Berry, a brilliant, hard-working budding scientist with an impressive history of awards and achievements. They met, and the team of Atanasoff and Berry -- two entirely different but gifted physicists -- was born. Atanasoff told his story of the Atanasoff-Berry Computer (also known as the ABC) in an earlier issue of the Annals (Vol. 6, No. 3). I am offering my own reminiscences, and am including two other items. One is a letter describing the ABC that Berry wrote to R. K. Richards, the author of Electronic Digital Systems, shortly before Berry died. The other item contains recollections written by Robert L. Mather, who at the time of the construction of the ABC was an undergraduate helping Berry.

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THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

Copyright ©; 1986 by the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. Used with permission.

Clifford Edward Berry, 1918-1963: His Role in Early Computers

JEAN R. BERRY

  (Image Omitted: © 1986 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. Categories and Subject Descriptors: A.0 [General] -- biographies/autobiographies, C. E. Berry; K.2 [History of Computing] - - Atanasoff-Berry Computer, hardware, people. General Terms: Design. Additional Key Words and Phrases: J. V. Atanasoff, mass spectrometry, obituary. Author's Address: 471-G Calle Cadiz. Laguna Hills, CA 92653. © 1986 AFIPS 0164-1239/86/040361-369

Clifford Edward Berry, 1918-1963: His Role in Early Computers

JEAN R. BERRY .00/00)

Introduction

A remarkable team of two scientists, John V. Atanasoff and Clifford E. Berry, together invented the world's first digital computer. Atanasoff came up with the concept of using the digital approach one winter night at a small tavern in Illinois. The need for a fast computer had been on his mind for some time, as a way to help his graduate students at Iowa State College (now University) speed their calculations. He needed someone with a talent for inventing and a thorough knowledge of electronics to work with him on this project. Atanasoff recalls the exact spot on the campus -- where the sidewalk leaving Beardshear Hall and heading toward the bookstore crossed the walk leading to Engineering -- that he met the head of the Engineering Department and stopped to chat. Atanasoff said that he had managed to get some financial backing, and he asked if the dean could suggest an electrical engineering graduate with a thorough knowledge of electronics to work with him. Without a second's hesitation, the dean suggested Clifford Edward Berry, a brilliant, hard-working budding scientist with an impressive history of awards and achievements.

They met, and the team of Atanasoff and Berry -- two entirely different but gifted physicists -- was born.

Atanasoff told his story of the Atanasoff-Berry Computer (also known as the ABC) in an earlier issue of the Annals (Vol. 6, No. 3). I am offering my own reminiscences, and am including two other items. One is a letter describing the ABC that Berry wrote to R. K. Richards, the author of Electronic Digital Systems, shortly before Berry died. The other item contains recollections written by Robert L. Mather, who at the time of the construction of the ABC was an undergraduate helping Berry.

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