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JOHN VINCENT ATANASOFF - INVENTOR OF THE ELECTRONIC DIGITAL COMPUTER

John Vincent Atanasoff

 John Atanasoff
(1903 - 1995)

John Atanasoff was born on 4 October 1903 a few miles west of Hamilton, New York. His father was a Bulgarian immigrant named Ivan Atanasov. His last name was changed to Atanasoff by immigration officials at Ellis Island when he arrived with an uncle in 1889, and later on, his first name was changed to John.

John Atanasoff's mother was Iva Lucena Purdy, a mathematics schoolteacher. His parents had nine children (one of whom died): John, Ethelyn, Margaret, Theodore, Avis, Raymond, Melva, Irving. After John Vincent's birth, his father accepted an electrical engineering position is Osteen, Florida, and subsequently, in Brewster, Florida. It was here that John Atanasoff completed grade school and started understanding the concepts of electricity.

He completed the Mulberry High School course in two years, excelling in science and mathematics. He had, by then, decided he wanted to be a theoretic physicist. In 1921, he entered the University of Florida in Gainesville. Since the university did not offer a degree in theoretic physics, he started taking electrical engineering courses. While taking these courses, he became interested in electronics and continued onto higher mathematics. He graduated from the University of Florida in 1925 with a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering. He had a straight "A" academic average. Even though he had many offers of teaching fellowships, including one from Harvard, he accepted the one from Iowa State College, because it was the first one he received and because of the institution's fine reputation in engineering and sciences.

In the fall of 1930 he became a member of the Iowa State College faculty as assistant professor in mathematics and physics. With his academic background, Atanasoff felt he was well equipped to try to figure out how to develop a way of doing the complicated math problems he had encounted during his doctoral thesis, in a faster, more efficient way. During the period that he was doing experiments with vacuum tubes and radio, and examining the field of electronics, he was promoted to associate professor of both mathematics and physics and moved from Beardshear Hall to the Physics Building.  

ABC computer     Atanasoff-Berry Computer

In late 1939, John Atanasoff teamed up with Clifford Berry to build a prototype. They created the first computing machine to use electricity, vacuum tubes, binary numbers and capacitors. The capacitors were in a rotating drum that held the electrical charge for the memory. The brilliant and inventive Berry, with his background in electronics and mechanical construction skills, was the ideal partner for Atanasoff. The prototype won the team a grant of $850 to build a full-scale model. They spent the next two years further improving the Atanasoff-Berry Computer. The final product was the size of a desk, weighed 700 pounds, had over 300 vacuum tubes, and contained a mile of wire. It could calculate about one operation every 15 seconds, today a computer can calculate 150 billion operations in 15 seconds. Too large to go anywhere, it remained in the basement of the physics department. The war effort prevented John Atanasoff from finishing the patent process and doing any further work on the computer. When they needed storage space in the physics building, they dismantled the Atanasoff-Berry Computer.

Паметникът ще стои на ул. Гурко, пред Телефонната палатаTechnical Explanation of The ABC Computer

http://inventors.about.com/od/famousinventors/fl/John-Atanasoff-and-Clifford-Berry-The-First-All-Electronic-Computer.htm

The A-B Computer used dynamic storage for its main memory, requiring periodic "refresh" to remind if of its binary state, as do today's dynamic RAM chips. Atanasoff considered using relays, magnetic core memory, vacuum tubes, and charged capacitors to store each bit of memory; he finally decided on the latter, on the basis of the cost/performance.

Atanasoff-Berry Computer Replica


The Atanasoff-Berry Computer was the first electronic digital computer. The original ABC was dismantled decades ago. Ames Laboratory, using private funding, is building a working replica of this historically important invention.

 

 

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