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Eniac in ActionMaking and Remaking the Modern Computer$
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Thomas Haigh, Mark Priestley, and Crispin Rope

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780262033985

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262033985.001.0001

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Putting ENIAC to Work

Putting ENIAC to Work

(p.85) 4 Putting ENIAC to Work
Eniac in Action

Thomas Haigh

Mark Priestley

Crispin Rope

The MIT Press

We begin with a discussion of the public launch of ENIAC in February 1946 as a carefully orchestrated scientific spectacle. We draw on oral history accounts and on archival sources, including seating plans, press releases, and records of the demonstration itself. We then consider ENIAC’s first year as an operational computer, during which its initial programming method was used on to run around a dozen applications at the Moore School. These are listed with brief discussion. We describe in some detail calculations performed by Douglas Hartree on supersonic airflow, the firing table calculations run as a public demonstration, and a mathematical experiment to detect prime numbers. These case studies integrate discussion of the various mathematical methods involved, the compromises and methods needed to adapt them for ENIAC, and the labor processes involved in running them on an often uncooperative machine in a chaotic environment.

Keywords:   Hartree, Douglas, Trajectory calculation, Bartik, Jean, McNulty, Kathlee, Lehmer, Derrick, Prime number

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