COMPUTER INVENTION: STILL PUNCH CARDS - & ELECTRONICS
True computer invention began in the late 1930’s - 1940’s, in looking for help in the US for the military and for the government. Early attempts and prototypes were gigantic in today’s terms.
The first computer invention contract was between the US and the University of Pennsylvania in 1943. It called for six months of "research and development of an electronic numerical integrator and computer and delivery of a report thereon." The contract was worth an entire $61,700.
The work continued to 1946 with a total cost of $486,804.22. Today, the same contract would be around $28 million. Still a bargain - I guess - considering other defense contracts.
The last supplement to the first computer contract called for the delivery of a working “pilot model.” The ENIAC was born. Final assembly took place in the fall of 1945.
Compared to the present - the ENIAC was a monster. Thirty separate units plus power supply and forced-air cooling - 19,000 vacuum tubes (do you know what a vacuum tube is?) - 1,500 relays - and hundreds of thousands of resistors, capacitors, and inductors - made this thirty ton+ monster consume nearly 200 kilowatts of power.
And what did you get? This computer could add, subtract, multiply, divide, extract square roots, and could discriminate the sign of a number and compare quantities for equality. The ENIAC stored a maximum of twenty 10-digit decimal numbers. No central memory unit existed, per se.
But - there were no mechanical elements. They were external to the calculator and were an IBM card-reader input - a card punch for output and the 1,500 relays.
Sounds like a functioning Texas Instruments calculator in hand instead of a 30 ton lab.
For a comprehensive history of the ENIAC go to:
ENIAC - THE ENTRY INTO MODERN COMPUTER INVENTION.
For the next step in massive computer invention keep on:
THE NEW UNIVERSE IN COMPUTER INVENTION: UNIVAC