Browse Prior Art Database

J. Presper Eckert

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129915D
Original Publication Date: 1996-Apr-30
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-07

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

PETER ECKSTEIN: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

Pres Eckert's father had built several large court apartment buildings in Philadelphia, but one had a troublesome intercommunication system in the lobbies. Operation required several dozen large number 6 batteries, and every month or so a tenant would accidentally leave a phone off the hook, exhausting all of their power, so new ones had to be bought and installed. Pres knew that the latest radios could run on household current because of new devices called ";battery eliminators,"; and he devised a similar approach. He took parts out of some eliminators, worked them into a metal box, and hooked them up to replace the batteries in the intercom system. It worked -- and would continue to work for the next 30 years. John Eckert was very impressed with his son's initial success -- but even more when the telephone repairman came by to check the system. John said that his son had replaced the batteries, but the repairman carefully explained that this was impossible: ";I've talked to the Connecticut Telephone and Telegraph Company that made this thing, and they've tried to build such devices and can't do it."; John replied gleefully: ";That's a lot of baloney. My 14year-old son just did it!"; The company sent someone out to investigate, and Pres explained his system. ";They were very interested,"; he recalled decades later. ";They got me to design one for them, which they then sold."; It was a major triumph.1 [Footnote] 1. Unless otherwise noted, the information and quotations are from the authors' interviews with J. Presper Eckert in 1992 and 1995 and with his childhood friends in 1995. These interviews are noted in the Reference section at the end of the paper.

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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.

J. Presper Eckert

PETER ECKSTEIN

The life experiences of any human influence the way we think and the types of activities in which we engage. This paper examines the early life of J. Presper Eckert, one of the inventors of the ENMC, and details those experiences which obviously came to influence his contributions to the creation of the ENMC and subsequent computers.

Introduction

Pres Eckert's father had built several large court apartment buildings in Philadelphia, but one had a troublesome intercommunication system in the lobbies. Operation required several dozen large number 6 batteries, and every month or so a tenant would accidentally leave a phone off the hook, exhausting all of their power, so new ones had to be bought and installed. Pres knew that the latest radios could run on household current because of new devices called "battery eliminators," and he devised a similar approach. He took parts out of some eliminators, worked them into a metal box, and hooked them up to replace the batteries in the intercom system. It worked -- and would continue to work for the next 30 years.

John Eckert was very impressed with his son's initial success -- but even more when the telephone repairman came by to check the system. John said that his son had replaced the batteries, but the repairman carefully explained that this was impossible: "I've talked to the Connecticut Telephone and Telegraph Company that made this thing, and they've tried to build such devices and can't do it." John replied gleefully: "That's a lot of baloney. My 14year-old son just did it!" The company sent someone out to investigate, and Pres explained his system. "They were very interested," he recalled decades later. "They got me to design one for them, which they then sold." It was a major triumph.11

Family Background

Franklin's Philadelphia

Pres Eckert was very much a product of early-20th century Philadelphia. With a population of a million-and-a-half, it was still the third-largest city in the country. It still bore the influence of its most distinguished citizen of the 18th century, Benjamin Franklin -- scientist, statesman, inventor and entrepreneur. Few cities, a long-time resident has noted, have been so heavily "molded by the work and genius of one man." He founded its first library, its first hospital, and its first fire company, and "his exploits continue to be taught in the city's schools with reverence"
[78]. Everyone knew that Broad Street had earned its name through Franklin's efforts to have it widened. The printer's trade -- in which both of Pres' grandfathers had begun their careers -- still

1 1. Unless otherwise noted, the information and quotations are from the authors' interviews with J. Presper Eckert in 1992 and 1995 and with his childhood friends in 1995....