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The Forces That Led to the Atanasoff-Berry Electronic Computer, lecture by John Atanasoff

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Published on Jan 23, 2011

Recorded: November 11, 1980; b/w

One night in the late 1930s in a bar on the Illinois-Iowa border, John Vincent Atanasoff, a professor of physics at Iowa State University, after a frustrating day performing tedious mathematical calculations in his lab, hit on the idea that the binary number system and electronic switches, combined with an array of capacitors on a moving drum to serve as memory, could yield a computing machine that would make his life and the lives of other similarly burdened scientists easier. Then he went back and built the machine. It worked. The whole world changed.

Why don't we know the name of John Atanasoff as well as we know those of Alan Turing and John von Neumann? Atanasoff never secured a patent for his early device, and a number of the concepts he pioneered were incorporated into the breakthrough ENIAC computer that evolved into the legendary UNIVAC. But in 1973 a court declared that the patent on the Sperry Rand UNIVAC device was invalid, opening the intellectual property gates to the computer revolution.

In 1980, Dr. John Atanasoff gave a lecture at the Digital Computer Museum in Massachusetts (a forerunner of the Computer History Museum). In this lecture (introduced by Gordon Bell) Dr. Atanasoff discusses his life, the events that lead to his breakthroughs in computing and the design of the Atanasoff--Berry Computer.

Lot Number: X6118.2011
Catalog Number: 102694989

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