By: Dusty Arlia
Published on October 4, 2011
Last Updated on Wednesday, July 08, 2015 at 10:08 PM
Total Updates: 4

One of the most important computers in history was the ENIAC I. This computer was built and operated by John Mauchly and John Presper Eckert at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania in 1946. The reason behind building this computer was for calculating artillery firing tables for the United States Army's Ballistic Research Laboratory. The ENIAC I was operation until October 2, 1955. Today, four panels of the original ENIAC I are on display at what is now the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

The ENIAC I, or the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, was historical in a number of ways. This was the first general-purpose electronic computer. The reason for giving it this kind of recognition was the ENIAC I's ability to be reprogrammed. Reprogramming the computer took a week or two, but is was possible and performed to solve different mathematical problems. Some examples of problems that the ENIAC I was able to help solve include the design of a hydrogen bomb, weather prediction, cosmic-ray studies, thermal ignition, random-number studies and wind-tunnel design.

What also made the ENIAC I historical was that it did these calculations one thousand times faster than electro-mechanical machines, a leap in computing power that no single machine has since matched. In one second, the ENIAC I could perform 5,000 additions, 357 multiplications or 38 divisions. This machine applied electronic speeds for the first time to mathematical tasks that were once too difficult and cumbersome to solve. This opened the door to new possibilities and discoveries.

When in operation, the ENIAC I took up a large amount of space. It took up approximately 1,800 square feet. Inside the ENIAC I was 7,468 vacuum tubes, along with 70,000 resistors, 10,000 capacitors, 1,500 relays, 6,000 manual switches and 5 million soldered joints. It weighed about 30 tons. As a result of building and operating the ENIAC I, improvements were made to the design of vacuum tubes.

Today, when devices are designed in the United States, but built in other countries, similar things happen. The building process is where builders can find improvements to the design of the product and in the way it is produced. When products are built in other countries, this enables them to learn how these products are built and gives them the ability to actually make these devices better. Looking at the history of computers, this theory is actually proven. Take vacuum tubes in the ENIAC I as an example. This is why it is so important to not only design the product in your country, but also to build it in your country. The ENIAC pioneered these proven theories.

To see where the ENIAC I falls in its place in history visit our comprehensive timeline of computers and technology.