Browse Prior Art Database

As the Twig is Bent: The Early Life of John Mauchly

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129916D
Original Publication Date: 1996-Apr-30
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-07
Document File: 11 page(s) / 48K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

JOHN COSTELLO: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

When he died, Time gave him a mere 20 lines of black agate type. Between the same covers, George Meany got a full-page obituary complete with illustrations in color. The grand old man of the American labor movement deserved every ounce of ink that Time spent on him. Meany the Mick, true son of hard-working, hod-carrying Irish immigrants, had changed the American blue-collar worker's world. By comparison, the passing mention that John W. Mauchly drew from one of the world's great weekly news magazines was both poignant and typical.

This text was extracted from a PDF file.
This is the abbreviated version, containing approximately 8% of the total text.

Page 1 of 11

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.

As the Twig is Bent: The Early Life of John Mauchly

JOHN COSTELLO

Our life experiences influence the way we think and the types of activities in which we engage. This paper examines the early life of John Mauchly, one of the inventors of the ENIAC, and details those experiences which came to influence his contributions to the creation of the ENIAC and subsequent computers.

Introduction

When he died, Time gave him a mere 20 lines of black agate type. Between the same covers, George Meany got a full-page obituary complete with illustrations in color. The grand old man of the American labor movement deserved every ounce of ink that Time spent on him. Meany the Mick, true son of hard-working, hod-carrying Irish immigrants, had changed the American blue- collar worker's world. By comparison, the passing mention that John W. Mauchly drew from one of the world's great weekly news magazines was both poignant and typical.

Here was Mauchly, once a kid from suburban Chevy Chase, one of the true movers and shakers who changed everyone s world. And the world knew him not, though few who shared with him the same time on this little Earth had left on it an impact so lasting and deep.

So the media farewell was apropos. It was the difference between a warm, beery Irish wake, capped with a censored requiem Mass -- and a simple graveside good-bye attended by the nearest of kin.

Here's what Time January 21, 1980, had to say:

  (Image Omitted: DIED. John W. Mauchly, 72, co-inventor of the first all- electronic computer, during heart surgery; in Abington, Pa. The Ohio- born physicist was teaching at the University of Pennsylvania in 1943 when he and Graduate Student J. Presper Eckert Jr. began building an electronic machine to replace mechanical devices. The ENIAC (for Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator), a 30-ton leviathan completed in 1946, was 1,000 times speedier than any other computer. After selling their company to the Sperry Rand Corp., the two devised smaller and even quicker machines, among them the celebrated UNIVAC, developed in 1950. But Sperry lost its early lead in computers to IBM, and ENIAC's creators, having signed away their patents early, never achieved great wealth. Said Mauchly: "That is life.")

Obituaries, like cremation, have the ability to shrink the immensities of, human being to the dimensions of a Mason jar. So, like this one, it told nothing of the bright young lad, another brilliant physicist's son, whose keen mind, generous spirit, and humor amused his friends and endeared him to them..

John W. Mauchly, "Bill" to the family, grew up at 107 East Bradley Lane in Chevy Chase, Md. Some years ago, the street numbers in that area were changed. So the present address of his old home is 3,519 Bradley Lane. More than addresses have cha...