A story about a legend...
John V. Atanasoff
John Vincent Atanasoff (October 4, 1903 - June 15, 1995) was an American physicist and inventor, best known for being credited with inventing the first electronic digital computer.
Atanasoff invented the first electronic digital computer in the 1930s at Iowa State College.
- Atanasoff was born on October 4, 1903 in Hamilton, New York to an electrical engineer and a school teacher.
- At the age of nine he learned to use a slide rule, followed shortly by the study of logarithms, and subsequently completed high school at Mulberry High School in two years.
- In 1925, Atanasoff received his bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from the University of Florida, graduating with straight A's.
- He continued his education at Iowa State College and in 1926 earned a master's degree in mathematics. He completed his formal education in 1930 by earning a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with his thesis, The Dielectric Constant of Helium. Upon completion of his doctorate, Atanasoff accepted an assistant professorship at Iowa State College in mathematics and physics.
- Partly due to the drudgery of using the mechanical Monroe calculator, which was the best tool available to him while he was writing his doctoral thesis, Atanasoff began to search for faster methods of computation. At Iowa State, Atanasoff researched the use of slaved Monroe calculators and IBM tabulators for scientific problems. In 1936 he invented an analog calculator for analyzing surface geometry. The fine mechanical tolerance required for good accuracy pushed him to consider digital solutions.
- With a grant of $650 received in September 1939 and the assistance of his graduate student Clifford Berry, the Atanasoff-Berry Computer (ABC) was prototyped by November of that year. According to Atanasoff, several operative principles of the ABC were conceived by him during the winter of 1938 after a drive to Rock Island, Illinois.
- The key ideas employed in the ABC included binary math and Boolean logic to solve up to 29 simultaneous linear equations. The ABC had no central processing unit (CPU), but was designed as an electronic device using vacuum tubes for digital computation. It also had regenerative capacitor memory that operated by a process similar to that used today in DRAM memory.
Honors and distinctions
- Atanasoff first met Mauchly at the December 1940 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Philadelphia, where Mauchly was demonstrating his "harmonic analyzer", an analog calculator for analysis of weather data. Atanasoff told Mauchly about his new digital device and invited him to see it.
- By 1945 the U.S. Navy had decided to build a large scale computer, on the advice of John von Neumann. Atanasoff was put in charge of the project, and he asked Mauchly to help with job descriptions for the necessary staff. However, Atanasoff was also given the responsibility for designing acoustic systems for monitoring atomic bomb tests. That job was made the priority, and by the time he returned from the testing at Bikini Atoll in July 1946, the NOL computer project was shut down due to lack of progress, again on the advice of von Neumann.
- In June 1954 IBM patent attorney A.J. Etienne sought Atanasoff's help in breaking an Eckert-Mauchly patent on a revolving magnetic memory drum, having been alerted by Clifford Berry that the ABC's revolving capacitor memory drum may have constituted prior art. Atanasoff agreed to assist the attorney, but IBM ultimately entered a patent-sharing agreement with Sperry Rand, the owners of the Eckert-Mauchly memory patent, and the case was dropped.
- Between 1954 and 1973, Atanasoff was a witness in the legal actions brought by various parties to invalidate electronic computing patents issued to John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert, which were owned by computer manufacturer Sperry Rand. In the 1973 decision of Honeywell v. Sperry Rand, a federal judge named Atanasoff the inventor of the electronic digital computer.
This information is taken from Wikipedia and is just shortened.