No Way: A Tech Device You Use Everyday Was Invented in Iowa
Here's a fun fact, an item YOU use all the time was actually invented right here in your home state of Iowa. You do use this item every day, I promise. How do I know? 'Cuz you're using it NOW! That's right, the first computer was invented in Iowa, at ISU. Oh, and if you're on your smartphone right now, remember, that's a computer too!
Meet the Atanasoff–Berry computer
The year was 1937. The location, Iowa State Unversity (called Iowa State College at the time). A physics professor named John Vincent Atanasoff and a grad student named Clifford Berry worked together to create the very first electronic digital computer. Once completed it was called the Atanasoff–Berry computer or, ABC. After years in of work, the final product was "released" in 1942.
How the machine worked
While the machine, seen above (and see another photo here), looks NOTHING like a modern, or even old PC, it was in fact a fully functioning computer. Sure, it looks like a printing press... or maybe a Star Wars-level piece of equipment.
As the story behind the machine's conception goes, many ideas relating to the Atanasoff–Berry Computer were conceived during a long car ride. The finished product introduced the world to the first computer that could handle the following tasks:
- Electronic computation
- Binary arithmetic
- Parallel processing
- Regenerative capacitor memory
- Separation of memory and computing function
The machine also used certain elements every computer today STILL employs (sourcing Wikipedia):
- Using binary digits to represent all numbers and data
- Performing all calculations using electronics rather than wheels, ratchets, or mechanical switches
- Organizing a system in which computation and memory are separated
The machine weighed 700 pounds and cost over $93,000 in funding (dollars adjusted for 2021.)
World War II interrupted the invention
There were controversies ISU's webpage created to the invention discusses an issue with the original paten. World War II stopped work on the ABC. As a result, another duo was the first to patent an electronic digital computer. In 1973, a judge overturned the patents and gave full credit to Atanasoff.
In November 1990, President George Bush awarded Atanasoff the National Medal of Technology. John Vincent Atanasoff. Atanasoff passed away 5 years later in 1995. He was 91. Berry died in 1963, he was only 45.
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