Browse Prior Art Database

Charles Babbage Institute Director's Column

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129902D
Original Publication Date: 1995-Dec-31
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-07
Document File: 3 page(s) / 20K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

ROBERT W. SEIDEL: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

ENIAC's 50th anniversary, officially set for Valentine's Day in 1996, has caused a great stir in the community of historians of computing. It is fitting that this ceremony will take place on that day not only because it is the 50th anniversary of the announcement of the computer, but also because such anniversaries appeal as much to the heart as to the head.

This text was extracted from a PDF file.
This is the abbreviated version, containing approximately 28% of the total text.

Page 1 of 3

THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

Copyright ©; 1995 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Charles Babbage Institute Director's Column

ROBERT W. SEIDEL, DIRECTOR

ENIAC's 50th anniversary, officially set for Valentine's Day in 1996, has caused a great stir in the community of historians of computing. It is fitting that this ceremony will take place on that day not only because it is the 50th anniversary of the announcement of the computer, but also because such anniversaries appeal as much to the heart as to the head.

Commemorating such events has become a regular industry in the last quarter of the 20th century, beginning with the Bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence in 1976. There are many who believe that the computer is changing the world even more than that document (it occupies only 10 kb on the World Wide Web).

Attempts to designate 1996 the "Year of the Computer" are being made by the University of Pennsylvania. Among the events planned there are the 1996 Annual Meeting of the Association for Computing Machinery's Pioneer Day Celebration; a reenactment of the Moore School Lectures of 1946, cast as a two-day technical and historical symposium and public exhibits on the Eniac and other computers.

These activities are being coordinated by Steven Brown, assistant dean for external affairs, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Pennsylvania, with the able assistance of our new Charles Babbage Fellow, Atsushi Akera. Tom Hughes, the distinguished historian of technology at the University of Pennsylvania, is among those helping to plan the historical aspects of the ceremony.

The Charles Babbage Institute is also planning a number of events, including a conference on computer history and policy, a traveling exhibit incorporating a "virtual museum," and the inauguration of an Information Processing Hall of Fame which will find its eventual home in a new Archives Facility being designed here at the University of Minnesota.

We are hopeful that these events may serve to reinvigorate interest in the history of the computer. Unfortunately, 50th anniversaries have become almost passe by now, since the end of World War II and the events surrounding it have provided so many opportunities for commemoration. The very subject has become the object of scholarly study, as a recent workshop on "The Construction of Scientific Memory: A Historiography of Commemorative Rites" at the Boston Colloquium for the Philosophy of Science witnesses.

How can we make the "Year of the Computer" truly memorable and a stimulus to the historical study of computers and information processing? This is a larger question than those surrounding the arrangements for these events. For the nature of collective memory, which is often constructed at such ceremonies, is not the same as the nature of history. As the recent events surrounding the Enola...