The Time Tunnel

The beginning_c.

History of an amazing machine

Howard Hathaway Aiken

1900-1973

Harvard mathematician who, during World war II, essentially created Charles Babbage's dream machine, with the help of the U.S. Navy and IBM. The Harvard-IBM Mark I, a program controlled, large-scale calculating machine completed in 1944, was noted for its reliability and accuracy, and it did calculations full-time during the war. Later versions improved accuracy and easy of use, with the Mark IV being the first machine to use an internally stored program. Although Aiken credited IBM engineers B. M. Durfee, Frank E. Hamilton and Clair D. Lake as co-inventors, Aiken is considered the driving force behind the projects, and his work influenced future mathematicians and the design of future machines. Aiken also recognized the importance of having future mathematicians program computers, and he convinced Harvard to establish graduate degrees in what would become computer science.


Walter Brattain

1902-1987

China-born american who co-invented the tranresistor, or transistor, and was a member of the AT&T Bell Telephone Laboratories team with John Bardeen and William Shockley. The transistor they invented had the same capabilities as a vacuum tube but was faster, broke less often, and used less power. The three shared a Nobel prize in physics in 1956.


John Von Neumann

1903-1957

Hungarian mathematician who in 1945 wrote a memo outlining the five key parts of the modern computer, based upon work being done by John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert for the EDVAC. The memo was accidentally distributed to the public, and it gave the computer scintific credibility but angered Mauchly and Eckert because of the credit Von Neumann ended up receiving for their work. He also was involved in the Manhattan project in Los Alamos, N.M., and proved the mathematical soundness of the new method of detonating the atomic bomb. He is generally considered the inventor of the stored-program computer.


John Atanasoff

1904-1995

Physics professor at Iowa State College (now Iowa State University) who designed, but never completed, one of the fiste machines to use electronic techniques in digital calculation. He is often considered the father of the modern computer, but he was not recognized untis recently and never received money for his contributions. In 1939, he and a graduate student, Clifford Berry, had a working prototype of the binary-based ABC (Atanasoff-Berry-Computer), but the machine was abandoned when Atanasoff went to work for the naval Ordnance laboratory in Washington, D.C. John Atanasoff is one of the most controversial figures in computer history, starting with question of whether he invented the first electronic digital special-purpose computer or just the pieces of it and going on to a bitter conflict of invention with John William Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert. His efforts are considered to have had a great influence on future designers.


George Stibitz

1904-1995

American mathematician at AT&T Bell telephone laboratories who invented several computers, the first of which used Boolean logic to add, subtract, multiply and divide complex numbers. This complex numbers calculator, completed in 1939, provided the foundation for digital computers and was also the first machine to be used from a remote location. Samuel William helped with the machine and made it easier to use by adding buttons. Stibitz is generally considered the inventor of one of the first digital computers.



1951. Leo, the first business computer
was completed.


1952. Broadcast newsman Walter Cronkite,
used a UNIVAC computer to predict a
presidential election.


Thomas flowers

(1905-1998 )

Engineer who led the team that created a fast, digital, all-electronic machine called the "Colossus," of which several copies were presumably used for British code-breaking during World war II. Flowers took his idea to the Dollis Hill Research Station in London after it was turned down by Bletchley Park, an estate in London that was the center of efforts to break the German military code. Less than a year later, the Colossus had been designed, constructed, and moved to Bletchley Park anyhow. It was functional by december 1943, and several more were installed june 1, 1944, five days before the allies invaded Normandy.


Grace Hopper

1906-1992

New York-born mathematician who has been called the first lady of software and the first mother-teacher of all computer programmers. She invented the first programming languages in the 1950s, for the MARK I and the UNIVAC I, and also invented the first compilers. She is often referred to as the woman who led the creation of COBOL (Common Business-Oriented Language) along with Charles Phillips. She was the first woman to get a doctorate in math from Yale, served as a Rear admiral in the U.S. Naval (and eventually became the oldest serving officer), and influenced the design of military languages for many years. It is considered her greatest accomplishment not her strides in these fields and long list of honors and accomplishments, but the young people she trained and inspired.


John William Mauchly

1907-1980

Ohio-born physicist who worked with J. Presper Eckert and a 50 members team to create the first electronic, large scale, general-purpose calculator, known as the ENIAC (Electronic numerical integrator and calculator), at the University of Pennsylvania in the Moore School of electrical engineering. The ENIAC is considered by some to be the first electronic computer. Mauchly, the principal consultant, dealt with software and programming, while Eckert, the chief engineer, handled the hardware. The digital calculator, which use high speed vacuum tubes, hierarchical memory, and subroutines, was funded by the war department's ballistics research laboratory to calculate firing trajectory tables during world war II.

Eckert and Mauchly had legal and personal disputes with Iowa State's John Atanasoff about his role in the machine's development. The Moore team went on to build the EDVAC (Electronic discrete variable computer), which was faster, used binary instead of decimal, and had stored-program capability. Eckert and Mauchly later started a company to create the UNIVAC (Universal automatic computer) but ran out of money.


Gordon teal

(1907-2003 )

Texas-born Texas Instruments physicist who in 1954 perfected a way of making transistors out of silicon, one of the most common elements, instead of germanium, which cost more than gold.


John Bardeen

1908-1991

Wisconsin-born co-inventor of the transresistor, or transistor, and a member of the AT&T Bell telephone laboratories team with Walter Brattain and William Shockley. The transistor they invented had the same capabilities as a vacuum tube but was faster, broke less often and used less power. The three received a Nobel prize in physics in 1956, and Bardeen went on to share another for research on superconductivity at low temperatures, making him the only scientist to receive two Nobel prize in the same field.


William Bradford Shockley

1910-1989

British co-inventor of the transresistor, or transistor, and a member of the AT&T Bell Telephone Laboratories team with John Bardeen and Walter Brattain. The transistor had the same capabilities as a vacuum tube but was faster, broke less often and used less power. The three shared a Nobel Prize in physics in 1956.



Bell laboratories scientists John Bardeen, William Shockley and Walter Brattain (left to right),
shared the 1956 Nobel prize in phisics for their discovery of the transistor effect.

Konrad Zuse

1910-1995

German engineer who in 1938 created the Z1, one of the first binary digital computers, which was destroyed during World War II. It wasn't electronic, and it didn't have a stored program, but it could be controlled through a punched tape and was basically what Charles Babbage had in mind when he dreamed of a computer. The Z1 is considered by some to be the first computer. Zuse also developed the successors Z2, Z3 and Z4 (The last of which was the only to survive the war). He and Helmut Schreyer submitted a proposal to the Nazi government to make the Z3 machine 1,000 times faster by using vacuum tubes instead of electromechanical relay switches, but the Nazi government did not support Zuse's work because Hitler was confident he would win the war before Zuse finished the machine.


Frederic Calland

1911-1977

English engineer who, with the help of Tom kilburn, developed cathode-ray tube (CRT) storage for the SSEM (small-scale electronic machine), which first ran in 1948, at Manchester University. CRTs were the first high speed random-access memory (which allowed the computer to go directly to specific stored information). the SSEM is considered by some to be the first computer.


William Norris

(1911-2006)

Nebraska engineer who founded Control Data Corp. and spawned the supercomputer industry. He gave Seymour Cray free rein to develop a supercomputer line including the 6600, which was the most powerful machine of its time.


David Packard

1912-1996

Colorado-born electrical engineer who, along with Bill Hewlett, created Hewlett-Packard, a computer company that became famous primarily for its profitable line of desktop printers. Hewlett and Packard, who met while both were Standford undergraduates, set up shop in a one car garage in Palo Alto Calif., and silicon valley was born. They got their first of several patents and their start as a business when they created a resistor-capacitance audio oscillator, which Disney purchased to make the sound track for the film "Fantasia."


Helmut Schreyer

1912-1984

German engineer who, as a graduate student, helped Konrad Zuse design and build his mechanical and electromechanical computers. Schreyer also experimented with (and is credited with the idea of) using a vacuum and neon tubes instead of electromechanical relays.


Alan Turing

1912-1954

English mathematician who was crucial in the work at Bletchley Park designing the Colossus, which deciphered German code during world war II and is considered by some to be the first electronic computer. Specifics about what he did are still covered under British official secrets act. Turing published a paper called "On computable numbers" that outlined, basically, the modern computer and still influences modern computer programmers. He was considered an eccentric among the eccentric personalities of his field and was known, among other things, for his crowing laugh and for riding his ancient bike with a gas mask because of his hay fever. He later invented the turing test, in which he proposed that if a computer could pass his test, it had proven that it could think. (So far, no computer has passed.) Authorities during the war apparently did not realize he was a homosexual, but he was convicted in 1952 for "unnatural acts" and forced to take female hormones. He died two years later, after knowingly eating an apple dippped in strychnine. It's debated whether the act was suicide or an experiment that failed.


Herman Heine Goldstine

(1913-2004)

Mathematician who helped design the first electronic computer, the ENIAC, at the university of Pennsylvania. (The electronic numerical integrator and calculator was the first electronic, large scale, general-purpose computer). He also worked with John Von Neumann on scietific papers at the Institute for Advanced study (IAS) and went on to write one of the most complete computer history books. The book, however, is sometimes said to have been weakened because of its emphased on Von Neumann and because he wrote it during a bitter lawsuit about the patent for the ENIAC.


William Hewlett

(1913-2001)

Michigan-born engineer who, along with David Packard, in 1939 created Hewlett-Packard, a computer company that became famous primarily for its profitable line of desktop printers. Hewlett and Packard, who met while both were Standford undergraduates, set up shop in a one-car garage in Palo Alto, CA., and silicon valley was born. They got their first of several patents and their start as a business when they created a resistor-capacitance audio oscillator, which Disney purchased to make the sound track for the film "Fantasia".


Maurice Wilkes

(1913- )

English mathematician who designed and constructed the EDSAC (Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator), a stored-memory computer (made up of 16 steel tubes and 3,000 vacuum tubes) that could be programmed in English and perform addition in 1.4 milliseconds. The EDSAC is considered by some to be the first electronic computer. He was inspired in 1946 by a series of lectures at the Moore School of Engineering and named his computer after the EDVAC. Wilkes, who was director of Cambridge University's "University mathematical laboratory," later constructed the EDSAC 2, the first computer to have a microprogrammed control unit.


Bernard Oliver

1916-1995

Founder of Hewlett-Packard laboratories in the early 1950s who derected its research for almost 30 years, from the first programmable desktop calculators to the first handheld calculators to the company's first computers. Along wint John Cage, he edited (and wrote part of) the classic "Electronic Measurements and instrumentations."


Claude Shannon

(1916-2001)

Michigan-born mathematician who wrote several influential papers, including one in 1937 that set the stage for digital computers and another in 1948 that founded information theory. He also wrote a paper that described the stored-program computer, which led to the development of John Von Neumann's digital, all-purpose electronic calculating device. The international standards organization (ISO) name the "Shannon," a unit of measurement for information content, after him. Shannon also has been recognized by some as the first person to use the word "bit".

Andrew Booth

(1918-2009)

British engineer and physicist who was an early proponent of magnetic drum memories for computers. By 1952, he and his father were selling fairly reliable working drums made of brass cylinders plated with nickel. Booth also experimented with thermal memory and tried to construct a "floppy" disk with oxide-coated paper.


John Eckert

1919-1995

Pennsylvania phyusicist who worked with John W. Mauchly and a 50 member team to create the first general-purpose electronic calculator, known as the ENIAC (Electronic numerical integrator and calculator), at the university of Pennsylvania in the Moore school of electrical engineering. The ENIAC is considered by some to be the first electronic computer. Eckert, the chief engineer, handled the hardware, and Mauchly, the principal consultant, dealt with the software and programming. The digital calculator, which used high-speed vacuum tubes, hierarchical memory, and subroutines, was funded by the War department's ballistics research laboratoy to calculate firing trajectory tables during world war II. In 10 years at the Aberdeen proving grounds, it was estimated to have done more arithmetic that the entire human race had done prior to 1945. Eckert and Mauchly had legal and personal disputes with Iowa State's John Atanasoff about his role in the machine's development. The Moore team went on to build the EDVAC (Electronic discrete variable computer), which was faster and used the binary system instead of decimal, and Eckert and Mauchly later started a company to create the UNIVAC (Universal automatic computer) but ran out of money.


Andrew Kay

1919-2014

Andrew Kay was the designer of an early portable computer, the Kaypro ll. This computer became a smash hit in the early 1980, before his company fell into bankruptcy in the '90s as the computer industry leapfrogged ahead of him.
For a time, Mr. Kay's company, Kaypro, was the world's largest portable computer maker, ranked fourth in the PC industry over all behind IBM, Aple computer and Radio Shack. A Kaypro was used by Arthur C. Clark to write his novel "2010: Odyssey two", and Stephen M. Case, who would become chief executive of America online, bought one as his first computer, adding a 300-baud modem to explore the fledgling online world.
The Kaypro ll burst onto the scene in 1982 at the west coast computer fair in San Francisco. The hobbyist phase of the industry was just ending, and although IBM had entered the personal computer market the previous year, portable computer were still a novelty. The 1981 exposition was dominated by Adam Osborne's trailblazing Osborne l computer, which weighted 24 lb, had a 5 inch display and came with a handfull of programs for what was then a breakthrough price of $1,795.
The next year Mr. Kay's boxy computer appeared at the same event. The Kaypro ll generated a great deal of enthusiasm by surpassing many of the Osborne's features. Both machines were described as "luggables" and were the size of a portable swing machine. But the Kaypro's case was rugged metal, in contrast to the Osborne's plastic shell, and it had a nine-inch cathode ray tube display. It weighted 29 lb and, like the Osborne l, sold for $1,795.
Later that year, Mr. Kay's fledgling company benefitted when Mr. Osborne announced plans for a new model, effectively killing sales of the firm's existing machine. This failure of business strategy became famously knows as the "Osborne effect". By the end of 1983, Mr. Osborne's company was bankrupt. Neither the Osborne l nor the Kaypro ll initially ran MS-DOS operating system, which would ultimately be an achille's heel as the software world catalized around the IBM pc and the software platform Microsoft had developed for it.
Mr. Kay came to the personal computer industry when he observed that his son-in-law was having trouble moving a bulky apple ll that came with a separate monitor. It occurred to him that an all-in-one machine would be more portable. At the time, Mr. Kay owned a small company that made electronic test equipment for the Aerospace industry in Southern California. Mr. Kay's firm, Non-linear systems, had originally grown on the strenght of the military and space industries, but after the Apollo Space program ended in the early 1970s, the company start loosing money for a number of years.
Kaypro revenue exceeded $120 million in 1985, bat the company never successfully made the transition to the IBM-compatible world. It filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1990, and Mr Kay, putting up $250,000 of his family's money , asserted, "we will build up our independent dealer base and do it again". Kaypro was not able to emerge from bankruptcy, however, and its assets were liquidated in 1992.
Andrew Fancis Kapischiansky was born on january 22, 1919, in Akron, Ohio, and received an engineering degree from the Massachussetts institute of technology in 1940. After moving to California in 1949, he went to work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he was involved in the Redstone rocket development program. His family changed its surname to Kay that same year. He founded Non-linear systems in 1952 and invented the digital multimeter in 1954 after he decided that analog voltmeters, which display current values with a movable needle, were not accurate enough. Mr. Kay's voltmeter used a system of lights to display numeric values.

This site was updated on 09/25/2014

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