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Celebrating The Birth Of Modern Computing: The Fiftieth Anniversary of a Discovery At The Moore School of Engineering of the University of Pennsylvania

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129912D
Original Publication Date: 1996-Apr-30
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-07
Document File: 9 page(s) / 41K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

DILYS WINEGRAD: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

A handful of patriots meeting in a tavern at Fourth and Walnut Streets in Philadelphia produced a revolution in 1776 that changed the world. In 1942 a group of electrical engineering faculty members and graduate students from the University of Pennsylvania, who frequented Linton's Restaurant that then stood at 33rd and Chestnut Streets, started to discuss the feasibility of electronic digital computing. The results of their brainstorming were as earth-shaking as those that followed the earlier gathering. A few years later -- on St. Valentine's Day, 1946, to be precise -- a group of scientists from the University of Pennsylvania demonstrated the first working electronic digital computer. The event started a technological revolution whose effects would be every bit as profound as the political upheaval of two centuries earlier. In the year 1996, the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) and the City of Philadelphia will mark the 50th anniversary of the birth of modern computing with 18 months of programs and celebrations.

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THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

Copyright ©; 1996 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Celebrating The Birth Of Modern Computing: The Fiftieth Anniversary of a Discovery At The Moore School of Engineering of the University of Pennsylvania

DILYS WINEGRAD

This article presents a brief overview of the ENMC and its place in history. It is designed to "set the scene" for the other papers that follow in this special issue on the ENMC.

Introduction

A handful of patriots meeting in a tavern at Fourth and Walnut Streets in Philadelphia produced a revolution in 1776 that changed the world. In 1942 a group of electrical engineering faculty members and graduate students from the University of Pennsylvania, who frequented Linton's Restaurant that then stood at 33rd and Chestnut Streets, started to discuss the feasibility of electronic digital computing. The results of their brainstorming were as earth-shaking as those that followed the earlier gathering. A few years later -- on St. Valentine's Day, 1946, to be precise -- a group of scientists from the University of Pennsylvania demonstrated the first working electronic digital computer.

The event started a technological revolution whose effects would be every bit as profound as the political upheaval of two centuries earlier. In the year 1996, the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) and the City of Philadelphia will mark the 50th anniversary of the birth of modern computing with 18 months of programs and celebrations.

Forerunners

Computation devices are as ancient as the human race. From the earliest times we have made use of the digital equipment conveniently to hand to make calculations based on our ten fingers. That sophisticated digital calculating machine, the abacus, is still widely used five thousand years after its first known appearance. A device, popularly known as "Napier's bones," was invented in the 17th century by the Scottish mathematician, John Napier, better known as the father of logarithms. The slide rule invented by William Oughtred, an Englishman in 1621, was only superseded this century with the advent of the computer and the process of miniaturization and simplification that has made the technology generally available.

The first true general-purpose mechanical digital computer was designed in the 1800s by an Englishman, Charles Babbage. Combining arithmetic processes with decisions based on its own computations, Babbage's Analytical Engine was a truly revolutionary device, but few of his contemporaries understood it. An exception was the daughter of Lord Byron, Ada, Countess of Lovelace, who supported Babbage's efforts and published an account of the proposed machine. Ada, widely regarded as the world's original programmer -- the first in a line of women mathematicians to contribute to the development of the computer -- has a computer language named in her honor.

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