The Man Who Invented the Computer

The Man Who Invented the Computer

The Biography of John Atanasoff, Digital Pioneer

Book - 2010
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Random House, Inc.
From one of our most acclaimed novelists, a David-and-Goliath biography for the digital age.

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? Because he never patented the device, and because the developers of the far-better-known ENIAC almost certainly stole critical ideas from him. But in 1973 a court declared that the patent on that Sperry Rand device was invalid, opening the intellectual property gates to the computer revolution.

Jane Smiley tells the quintessentially American story of the child of immigrants John Atanasoff with technical clarity and narrative drive, making the race to develop digital computing as gripping as a real-life techno-thriller.

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Traces the originating role of physics professor John Vincent Atanasoff to the invention of the computer, describing his innovative construction of an unpatented electronic device that used binary numbers to ease the lives of burdened scientists. By the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Thousand Acres. 50,000 first printing.

Blackwell Publishing
One night in the late 1930's, in a bar on the border of Illinois and Iowa, a professor of physics at Iowa State College had an idea. After a frustrating day performing tedious mathematical calculations in his lab, John Vincent Atanasoff realized that a combination of the binary number system and electronic switches, together with an array of capacitors on a moving drum to serve as memory, could yield a computing machine that would make his lifeùand the lives of other similarly burdened scientistsùeasier. Then he went back and built the machine in the basement of the physics building. It worked. The whole world changed.

Why don't we know the name of John Atanasoff as well as we know those of such genius computing pioneers as Alan Turing and John von Neumann? Because he never patented the device, and the developers of the far better-known ENIAC, John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert, almost certainly stole his critical ideas. But in 1973, a court declared that the patent on that Sperry Rand device was invalid, opening the intellectual property gates to the computer revolution and the digital universe we now inhabit.

Who better than Jane Smiley to tell John Atanasoff's quintessentially American Story? Expanding the scope of her account to take in the race to develop the digital computer in England by figures like Turing and Tommy Flowers, and in Germany by the lone inventor Konrad Zuse, she shows that while computing was all but inevitable, how we compute was not. With technological clarity and extraordinary narrative drive, The Man Who Invented The Computer is a gripping, real-life techno-thriller that will change how we think of digital computing.

Baker
& Taylor

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 easier. Then he went back and built the machine. It worked, but he never patented the device, and the developers of the far-better-known ENIAC almost certainly stole critical ideas from him. But in 1973 a court declared that the patent on that Sperry Rand device was invalid, opening the gates to the computer revolution. Biographer Jane Smiley makes the race to develop digital computing as gripping as a real-life techno-thriller.--From publisher description.
Traces physics professor John Vincent Atanasoff's role in the invention of the computer, describing his innovative construction of an unpatented electronic device that eased the lives of burdened scientists by performing calculations using binary numbers.
Traces the originating role of physics professor John Vincent Atanasoff to the invention of the computer, describing his innovative construction of an unpatented electronic device that used binary numbers to ease the lives of burdened scientists. By the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Thousand Acres. 50,000 first printing.

Publisher: New York : Doubleday, c2010
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780385527132
0385527136
Branch Call Number: 004.092 SMI
Characteristics: 246 p., [8] p. of plates : ill. ; 25 cm

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SunKing2
Mar 22, 2011

The author shows us develpments of the computer through early efforts during WWII as both experiments and as code-breakers. But during these, it appears Atanasoff has been creating a machine to solve differential equations, and has succeeded. Only towards the end do we realize that other's accomplishments (von Neumann, Turing, and "the first computer") have really had their origins in Atanasoff's ABC machine.

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