While flipping through the July 2010 issue of QST I stumbled on the Vintage Radio column titles “From Dits to Bits”. In this article, John (K2TQN) describes his long held fascination with computers and connections to some some early computer magazines, clubs and kits. I would imagine many hams would have a similar long time passion for electronic computing – myself included.
However, the article did have a glaring error that I need to mention. It credits ENIAC as the first electronic computer built at the University of Pennsylvania.
While ENIAC was certainly a major milestone in the development of computers (and truly was the first general purpose electronic computer), ENIAC was not the first electronic computer.
In 1939, John Vincent Atanasoff, prototyped the first electronic computer at Iowa State College (now Iowa State University) in Ames, Iowa. This machine, dubbed the Atanasoff-Berry Computer (ABC) was little known until a highly publicized court case in the 1970s. The judge ruled that the ABC was “prior art” which voided the Sperry Rand claim that the ENIAC was the first electronic computer.
So, here’s to you John Vincent Atansoff… let’s hope that QST sets the record straight.