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17-1 Who is John Atanasoff (by Luben Boyanov)


This article is from the Bulgaria FAQ, by Dragomir R. Radev radev@tune.cs.columbia.edu with numerous contributions by others.

17-1 Who is John Atanasoff (by Luben Boyanov)

(by Luben Boyanov)
Subject: The inventor of the modern digital computer - of Bulgarian origin

The name John Atanasoff is not very well known but this is the man
who has created the modern digital computer. 50 years have passed
since John Atanasoff has created the first digital computer.

President Bush has awarded the 1990 National prize for Technical achievement,
- the highest American Technical award (I've used non-English text to
translate the name of the prize so the correct name of the award may be
a different one) to Prof. John Atanasoff.

For long time it has been considered that the first electronic digital
computer was ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) and one
can find that name in almost any Computer Science books as the first
example of the first generation digital computer systems.

ENIAC was built at the University of Pennsylvania under the direction of John
Mauchly and J. P. Eckert. Work on ENIAC began in 1943 and it was completed
in 1946. However, in the early seventies it was proven that the ideas behind
ENIAC were taken from the ABC (Atanasoff-Berry Computer) computer.

John Atanasoff was born in Hamilton, New York in 1903. He was educated at
the University of Florida, Iowa State College, and the University of
Wisconsin (PhD, physics, 1930). With the help of Clifford Berry, Atanasoff
built a working model of the Atanasoff-Berry Computer (ABC) in 1942. The
ABC computer was a special-purpose machine for solving simultaneous linear
equations. It was a serial, binary, electro-mechanical machine, and employed
various new techniques that Atanasoff invented, including novel uses of
logical circuitry and regenerative memory.

Only recently has Atanasoff achieved recognition as one of the "fathers" of
the digital computer.

During his last visit in Bulgaria to the birth-place of his father - an
emigrant orphan from the April Uprising against the Turks, John Atanasoff
said: "Like a Bulgarian I am also a restless and creative person and the
Slav root in my blood has helped me a great deal in life".

John Atanasoff - junior, president of "Cybernetics Products, Inc" has also
visited Bulgaria recently. He considers as good the chances of cooperation
between his company and the newly emerging Bulgarian private businesses.

It's not bad to remember that the inventor of the first modern digital
computer is of Bulgarian origin.


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