ENIAC the "Giant Brain" was a monster, introduced to the public in 1946. The Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer would eventually capture the world's imagination. At a cost of $500,000 at the time to build, which today would be equivalent to about $6,000,000 by todays money, it was used originally to calculate artillery firing tables for the United States Army, it's first program; to study the feasibility of the hydrogen bomb. ENIAC was a thousand times faster than the old electro-mechanical machines, but compares little to the super computers of today, even to your personal lap top.
She contained 17,468 vacuum tubes, which created a lot of heat consuming about 150 kw of power. It is rumoured that when the power switch was turned on, Philadelphia dimmed. She was able to do 5,000 simple arithmetic calculations using 10-digit numbers, 385 multiplications, 40 division operations and three square root operations per second besides performing other jobs all at the same time. At the time that was fast.
ENIAC did have it's problems though, several of it's vacuum tubes would burn out everyday, leaving it helpless most of the time. The longest period of operations without a major failure was 116 hours, or five days. The input/output for testing the hydrogen bomb took over one million punch cards and since computer programming at the time was considered a desk job, 6 women were hired to perform the task.
ENIAC was the only one built of it's kind. In 1973 the patent expired and went public. Parts of ENIAC are now located in universities and museums around the world.
The six women who were originally hired to do the programming; Kay McNulty, Betty Jennings, Betty Snyder, Marlyn Wescoff, Fran Bilas and Ruth Lichterman were in 1997, inducted into the Women in Technology, International Hall of Fame.
Let's give a hand to the women of the world. Without them programming ENIAC, we might have lost the war.
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