Traveler's Steampunk Blog

res ætheris exploramus

Atompunk Friday: ENIAC

Posted By on 10. Februar 2012

Today I feel like doing a bit of Atompunk, and since I am doing my blogging at a computer I guess it is time to remember the distant ancestor of all computers, the ENIAC. ENIAC is the acronym for Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer.
There are several rather good articles on the web:

so I do not have to go into the technical details. What I find far more fascinating than the technical details of this august machine, are the implications when you take a look at the history of computers.

Classic shot of the ENIAC

ENIAC started operating (it did not go online, that was impossible back then) in 1946 and was swithed off (after being transfered once) at 11:45 p.m. on October 2, 1955. few computers today are used that long. Technological progress means your cutting-edge machine is rather obsolete two years from now.

ENIAC weighed in at 27 tons and needed its own barracks (being some 30m long). Its power-usage was so immense, there was a jke going around, claiming the lights in Philadelphia dimmed when ENIAC was switched on.

And now, it is not sixty years since ENIAC was switched off and where are computers today? Everywhere. They are by several orders of magnitude faster, smaller, lighter, and more efficient than the engineers working on ENIAC could have dreamed. Notebooks or touch-pad computers, let alone smartphones, were not even the stuff of science fiction yet, when ENIAC was built. Just read the classic literature of the times, like the Lensmen novels, you will see what I mean.

So, ENIAC is a shining example of how far technological development can take humanity within one lifespan. Computers are everywhere now, they have radically changed our lives in the last 30 years, they have made the ætherweb possible and this is were we waste our time now are immensly creative and productive.

And here’s a snippet from the original newsreel, introducing ENIAC to the American people:


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