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Eniac: The Triumphs and Tragedies of the World's First Computer
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Eniac: The Triumphs and Tragedies of the World's First Computer

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  193 ratings  ·  27 reviews
For all his genius, John Von Neumann is not, as he is often credited, the true father of the modern computer. That honor belongs to two men, John Mauchly and Presper Eckert, who designed and built the first digital, electronic computer. The story of their three-year race to create the legendary ENIAC and their three-decade struggle to gain credit for it has never been told ...more
Hardcover, 262 pages
Published 1999 by Walker & Company
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Curt Jeffreys
The story of Eniac, the world's first truly programmable electronic computer, is both inspiring and heart breaking. J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly were true visionaries, ahead of their time in many ways, yet exactly in the right place at the right time in more ways. Their story is one of technological innovation and political in-fighting. Unfortunately for them victory, fame, and most of the money went to those who could play the game, leaving the creators of this world-changing machine unde ...more
Eric_W
I really enjoy reading books about the history of technology, and this
audio book was particularly fascinating. World War II created a demand
for lots of number crunching, especially for the development of artillery tables. Human computers — hence the origin of the word for the hardware we all use today — were women who had been math majors. They were recruited in droves to laboriously perform the intricate computations that governed the positioning of field pieces. The tables were all predicated
...more
John
An interesting read on the early history of the computer. The main flaw as I see it is that the story of ENIAC is largely outlined in the first third of the book. The rest of the slender tome goes on to detail the extended battles over patent rights. Plenty of print is spent on the creators' battles with themselves, the marketplace, and the powers that seemed to conspire to deny them their proper place in computing history well after ENIAC was retired. I have read only a little heretofore about ...more
Bojan Tunguz
It is hard to imagine today, when there is literally a computer in each pocket in a form of a smartphone, that digital computers are a relatively recent development in the course of human history. They have more than anything else in the past fifty years changed the way we live and communicate with each other, the way we entertain ourselves, and have touched almost every aspect of our lives in ways that we have increasingly come to take for granted. And yet it is ironic that almost no one would ...more
Win
A really interesting story of two guys nobody's ever heard of.

A really interesting tale about capitalism, dumb luck, personalities and the way the world sometimes works. Really felt like an insider's view into the back rooms at Penn in the 1940s.

The writing, though, is kind of flat. Almost seemed like it took a juicy story and made it drier than it had to be. (And I'm a person interested in the subject matter.)

However, loved the detail the author went into on various parts, esp. the Honeywell v.
...more
Tom Schulte
So many history of computing books focus on colorful long hairs with post-hippie philosophies that this is both refreshing and jarring for the business, patent, and priority squabbles it details. Interestingly, John von Neumann comes across as the most unethical in using his prestige to grab more than his share of the credit.

This audiobook is so unabridged it includes the source notes.
J.P.
The author wanted to make it clear who he thought invented the computer. So much so that the last 50 pages of this book dealt less with ENIAC and more with his effort to overwhelm the reader with facts supporting his case. One can get that idea across in 5 pages without getting beaten over the head with it in the remaining 45. You've made your point, move on.
The book was quite readable although in workmanlike prose and yes, the author has a valid arguement that John Mauchly and Presper Eckert sh
...more
David
This book presents the history behind the development of the first truly usable computer -- the Eniac. It makes a strong case that John W. Mauchly and J. A. Presper Eckert deserve the lion's share of the credit for its development, even though in many circles their names have been swept aside in favor of such notables and John von Neumann, who did much to publicize the work in academic research circles but who really did relatively little in its actual design and construction.

In general, the boo
...more
Anneliese Gimpel
This book was lent to me by Dr. Mauchly's niece. I probably would not have picked it up otherwise, but it was a quick and interesting read - although I did not understand all the technical details (of which there are not that many) I did enjoy learning about the personal and political struggles that were part of this historical development. It saddens me that Mauchly and Eckert are not as famous as they should be, considering the innovations that they introduced into the computing world.
Peter
(entered this years after reading; read this before Goodreads)

Probably enjoyed it.

Aurora library.
Bill
I read this in one sitting, which is rare for me. I won't say the book was remarkable, but it was informative. There are lots of people out there who have done their research, however, regarding the history of ENIAC. To say it if the world's first computer is a bit misleading. It's a great read in terms of some of the players, but the relationships between these people as well as some factual info need to be taken with a grain of salt, and further research should be done to get the real dope if ...more
Oliver
details the beginnings of computers. Well researched, great telling of Eckert and Markley's personal experiences; well worth reading. chapters end
abruptly, brings up controversary unbeknownst to me before reading, last quarter of book about boring lawsuit.
Paul Ivanov
I remember this being a fairly engaging book - was probably my first dive into computing history, I read it in a few sittings at the (now long gone) Crowne Books in Mountain View as a sophomore in high school.

The thing I most remember from this book is that the von Neumann archicture should not be so named, because as McCartney argues, Eckert and Mauchly contributed significantly in developing those ideas with (and perhaps even before) von Neumann.
Don
I liked this book, but I felt like the author was a little eager to come to an end. He could have spend some more time on the personal biographies of the two inventors, as well as some more technical information. And where are the pictures!? Instead I felt he skimped a little on both, and before I knew it I reached the end. Left me wanting more. Don't worry--Wikipedia has the technical info behind ENIAC that's missing from the book.
Peter
Interesting history of the first real electronic computer and the two men responsible for it. Quite short, but could have been shorter still because the message is simple: here are these two men who created the first computer, and a few other people (through cunning and lawsuits) stole the credit from them. Reinforces the central role the USG, and the military in particular, played in the development of computers.

Audiobook.
David R.
A workmanlike account of the development of the world's first successful digital computer. McCartney has an axe to grind and spends rather a great deal of time agonizing over a patent rights dispute and the squabbles among the first computer companies. Don't expect a solid understanding of how ENIAC actually worked.
Drew Weatherton
I was hoping for more focus on the technical development of the ENIAC itself. The book focuses on the various people involved in developing early computers, which was interesting enough to keep me reading but not so interesting that I'd call this required reading on computer history.
Michael Connolly
Presper Eckert and John Mauchly invented the computer at the University of Pennsylvania during World War II. Due to secrecy restrictions, they were not able to publish their work, so they have never received the recognition they deserved. This book attempts to correct that omission.
Chris Davis
It is interesting to see who does the work and who gets the credit. This is a good underdog story. Well the underdog does not really win but hey you win some you loose some. The story of how the computer came to be and the people involved and who stood in the way is really entertaining.
Chuck Weiss
Reads like a good drama, amazing to think that one of our first true digital computers was the result of a combination of pure determination and dumb luck.

Too bad my dog just chewed the cover off of my copy, guess it's not going back into the bookshelf.
Kmfurr
Rereading this -- first read it in Coronado in the mid 1990s I think. The first computer (depending on how you want to define that), ENIAC, was created by Eckert & Mauchly in Philadelphia. Jon von Neumann weaseled in and stole credit for their ideas.
Liz
This was a quick read and very interesting. However the end of the book did drag on a bit with coverage of all the lawsuits. I just feel really sad for Eckert and Mauchly getting screwed out of the credit they deserve for inventing modern computing.
Pete
Took what should have been a compelling narrative and made it disjointed and uninteresting. I think the material is there for a better story teller to capitalize on.
Tim Pozar
A bit "pop" and non-techy in its review of the history of the ENIAC. It skips over contributions from the programmers, mainly women.
J.J.
Had no idea there was so much controversy surrounding the creation of the computer. Was a bit lawyer-y in parts though.
Russ Mathers
Decent for a quick scan of the computer history.
Judy
Well done, great read. Unsung heros...
Chip McKey
Chip McKey marked it as to-read
Feb 26, 2015
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