2 min read
October 5, 2020

It is easy to forget about all the events that have helped to get us where we are. On this day in 1996 (October 8, 1996), the US Postal Service issued a "Computer Technology" stamp to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the ENIAC (Electonic Numerical Integrator and Computer).

Why is the ENIAC important? It was the first programmable general-purpose digital computer (the emphasis here is digital). It was built during World War II (WWII). The main purpose it was designed for was computing artillery range tables. With that as it's focus, it lacked some features that would make it more generally useful. Once it was programmed it would run at electronic speed, the issue was it could take days to fully rewire the machine for each new problem, and it would occupy an area of 50 x 30 foot (15 x 9 meters).

The device was completed in February 1946, and cost the government four hundred thousand dollars ($400,000). The interesting fact is it was designed to help win World War II, however, the war ended before the machine could be used for the war. The first task it had was doing calculations to help construct the hydrogen bomb.

The reason to call out the first digital computer is the title of the first analog computer currently belongs to Antikythera Mechanism. The Antikythera Mechanism is thought to have been created around the third century B.C. (300 B.C.). The current year is 2020 so that puts it at an estimated 2320 years old. The Smithsonian has a nice article on it, Antikythera Mechanism - Smithsonian.

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