A BRIEF HISTORY OF COMPUERS: We begin our study of computers with a brief history.
First Generation: Vacuum Tubes
ENIAC The ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer), designed and constructed at
the University of Pennsylvania, was the world’s first general-purpose electronic digital computer.
The project was a response to U.S needs during World War II.
John Mauchly, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Pennsylvania, and
John Eckert, one of his graduate students, proposed to build a general-purpose computer using
vacuum tubes for the BRL’s application. In 1943, the Army accepted this proposal, and work began
on the ENIAC. The resulting machine was enormous, weighing 30 tons, occupying 1500 square feet
of floor space, and containing more than 18,000 vacuum tubes. When operating, it consumed 140
kilowatts of power. It was also substantially faster than any electromechanical computer, capable of
5000 additions per second.
The ENIAC was completed in 1946, too late to be used in the war effort. The use of the ENIAC
for a purpose other than that for which it was built demonstrated its general-purpose nature. The
ENIAC continued to operate under BRL management until 1955, when it was disassembled.
THE VON NEUMANN MACHINE The task of entering and altering programs for the ENIAC was
extremely tedious. The programming process can be easy if the program could be represented in a
form suitable for storing in memory alongside the data. Then, a computer could get its instructions
by reading them from memory, and a program could be set or altered by setting the values of a
portion of memory. This idea is known as the stored-program concept. The first publication of the
idea was in a 1945 proposal by von Neumann for a new computer, the EDVAC (Electronic Discrete
In 1946, von Neumann and his colleagues began the design of a new stored-program
computer, referred to as the IAS computer, at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies. The IAS
computer,although not completed until 1952,is the prototype of all subsequent general-purpose
Figure 1.1 Structure of IAS Computer
DEPARTMENT OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY::SVECW