The Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, or ENIAC, was one of the first electronic digital computers, and it was a milestone in the history of computing. ENIAC was developed during World War II to help the United States Army calculate artillery firing tables. It was an enormous machine, covering 1,800 square feet and weighing 30 tons, but it was a significant step forward in computing technology.
ENIAC was not a stored program computer, meaning that it did not store instructions in its memory. Instead, it was programmed using a series of patch cords and switches, which had to be manually configured for each computation. This made programming ENIAC a time-consuming and laborious process, but it was still much faster than manual calculations.
ENIAC used 18,000 vacuum tubes to perform calculations, and it could perform 5,000 additions or subtractions per second. This was a huge improvement over previous computing machines, which relied on mechanical or electromechanical components and were much slower.
ENIAC was also notable for its reliability. Vacuum tubes are known for being prone to failure, but ENIAC’s designers built-in redundancy so that the machine could continue operating even if some of the tubes failed. This made ENIAC a more reliable computing machine than previous designs.
Despite its limitations, ENIAC was a groundbreaking achievement in the field of computing. It demonstrated the potential of electronic digital computers and paved the way for further developments in computing technology.
However, ENIAC was not a stored program computer, and this limited its flexibility and efficiency. It was difficult to program, and each computation required extensive reconfiguration of the machine’s patch cords and switches. This made ENIAC unsuitable for many computing tasks, such as scientific simulations, which required more complex and flexible programming.
The development of stored program computers, which could store instructions in their memory and execute them automatically, was a significant advance in computing technology. The first stored-program computer was the Manchester Mark I, which was built in England in 1948.
Stored program computers allowed for much more efficient and flexible programming, and they paved the way for modern computing as we know it. Today, we rely on computers for everything from communication and entertainment to scientific research and national security, and it all started with machines like ENIAC, which pushed the boundaries of what was possible in computing technology.