ENIAC: The Triumphs and Tragedies of the World’s First Computer

By Scott McCartney
Read by Adams Morgan

6.30 Hours 10/01/1999 unabridged
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The true father of the modern computer was not John von Neumann, as he is generally credited. That honor belongs to the two men, John Mauchly and Presper Eckert, who built the world’s first programmable computer: the legendary ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer). Their three-year race to create the ENIAC is a compelling tale of brilliance and misfortune that has never been told before. Mauchly and Eckert developed a revolutionary vision: to make electricity “think.” Funded by the US Army, the team they led constructed a behemoth the size of a three-bedroom apartment. It weighed thirty tons, cost nearly half a million dollars—plus $650 an hour to run—and had eighteen thousand vacuum tubes with miles of wiring. But in 1945, the ENIAC was the cutting edge in technology and a herald of the digital age to come, blazing a trail to the next generation of computers that quickly followed.  Based on original interviews with surviving participants and the first study of Mauchly and Eckert’s personal papers, ENIAC is a dramatic human story and a vital contribution to the history of technology that restores to the two inventors the legacy they deserve.

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Summary

Summary

The true father of the modern computer was not John von Neumann, as he is generally credited. That honor belongs to the two men, John Mauchly and Presper Eckert, who built the world’s first programmable computer: the legendary ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer). Their three-year race to create the ENIAC is a compelling tale of brilliance and misfortune that has never been told before.

Mauchly and Eckert developed a revolutionary vision: to make electricity “think.” Funded by the US Army, the team they led constructed a behemoth the size of a three-bedroom apartment. It weighed thirty tons, cost nearly half a million dollars—plus $650 an hour to run—and had eighteen thousand vacuum tubes with miles of wiring. But in 1945, the ENIAC was the cutting edge in technology and a herald of the digital age to come, blazing a trail to the next generation of computers that quickly followed. 

Based on original interviews with surviving participants and the first study of Mauchly and Eckert’s personal papers, ENIAC is a dramatic human story and a vital contribution to the history of technology that restores to the two inventors the legacy they deserve.

Editorial Reviews

Editorial Reviews

“[ENIAC] tells an absorbing story and sheds light on a moment when our world was transformed.” New York Times
“This lively account of the computer pioneers of another era not only fills a black hole in the history of technology, but demonstrates that the same chaotic and unpredictable creative processes that gave birth to the PC led, decades earlier, to the creation of the first mainframes. Without ENIAC, there could have been no Apple II, no IBMPC, no Macintosh.” Wall Street Journal
“McCartney has performed an important service by rescuing this tale from obscurity.” Philadelphia Inquirer
“Engagingly written…this book an absorbing read for anyone who savors the human stories that always underlie great events.” Wired
“[A] great story…McCartney offers excellent documentation, interesting asides, and real drama.”  Publishers Weekly
“A lively account…focuses on the human interest. Adams Morgan gives a crisp, brisk, documentary-style reading that keeps us involved throughout.” AudioFile
“McCartney writes in a clean, smooth, journalistic style, as free as possible of jargon, which makes the story of ENIAC’s development a fascinating, yet easy read.” School Library Journal

Reviews

Reviews

Author

Author Bio: Scott McCartney

Scott McCartney is an award-winning staff writer for the Wall Street Journal. He is also the author of Defying the Gods: Inside the New Frontiers of Organ Transplants and coauthor of Trinity’s Children: Living along America’s Nuclear Highway. He lives in Dallas, Texas.

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Details

Details

Available Formats : Digital Download, Digital Rental, Library CD, MP3 CD
Category: Nonfiction
Runtime: 6.30
Audience: Adult
Language: English