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

3.77  ·  Rating Details ·  258 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
ENIAC is the story of John Mauchly and Presper Eckert, the men who built the first digital, electronic computer. Their three-year race to create the legendary ENIAC is a compelling tale of brilliance and misfortune that has never been told before.

It was the size of a three-bedroom apartment, weighed 30 tons, and cost nearly half a million dollars to build-and $650 an hour
Paperback, 262 pages
Published February 1st 2001 by Berkley Trade (first published 1999)
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(showing 1-30 of 469)
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Charlene Lewis- Estornell
This book is great. What a fantastic idea to spend the whole focus of a book on the invention of Eniac. I loved every delicious minute of the invention process, court battles, politics, and personal battles surrounding the development of Eniac.

When I was very little, my father took me to UPenn to see Eniac. He worked there as a programmer in the late 1970s and took me into his office and explained what email was, at the time a foreign concept. He helped me type a message to one of his coworkers
Dan Herman
Feb 16, 2016 Dan Herman rated it really liked it
Inventions are invariably a tricky business. With very few exceptions, not many things sprang forth fully-formed from the minds of one (or two, or whatever) people. Even Isaac Newton reminded people of the ideas of those who came before him, when discussing his genius. This is not to diminish those inventors, but to point out that Ford didn't invent the automobile, Edison didn't invent the lightbulb, and if Bell was the first to crank out a telephone, it was by maybe a month. Tops.

The computer i
Nick Robinson
Dec 16, 2015 Nick Robinson rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Krishna Kumar
May 18, 2015 Krishna Kumar rated it it was ok
This is supposed to be the story of Presper Ekert and John Mauchly, the inventors of ENIAC, the first electronic computer. Actually, it is more about the politics and intrigue surrounding the invention and the various claims to fame by the people who were involved in the invention and the aftermath. The author is of the opinion that Ekert and Mauchly deserved more acclaim than they received, because others including John von Neumann received the credit because of their higher/better positions in ...more
Curt Jeffreys
Aug 13, 2014 Curt Jeffreys rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 08, 2009 Eric_W rated it it was amazing
Shelves: technology
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
Jul 20, 2011 John rated it liked it
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
Apr 22, 2011 Bojan Tunguz rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 02, 2009 Win rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
Pat Jorgenson Waterchilde
Aug 13, 2016 Pat Jorgenson Waterchilde rated it really liked it
Interesting, factual, well written and relatively easy to read. While I will never understand the technicalities of computers and how they work, the history of how computers came to be and the controversies over who invented the first computer made for an interesting book.
Oct 20, 2011 J.P. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
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
Oct 12, 2009 David rated it liked it
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
Jul 06, 2015 Darvish rated it really liked it
Very nice inside view of the beginning of the computer industry. Hadn't heard some of these stories before, enjoyed the book a lot.
Anneliese Gimpel
Jan 18, 2015 Anneliese Gimpel rated it it was amazing
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.
Jul 16, 2014 Peter rated it really liked it
Shelves: work-read
(entered this years after reading; read this before Goodreads)

Probably enjoyed it.

Aurora library.
Sep 10, 2013 Bill rated it liked it
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
Nov 27, 2014 Oliver rated it really liked it
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
Feb 23, 2010 Paul Ivanov rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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.
Dec 02, 2007 Don rated it liked it
Shelves: computer-science
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.
Jul 21, 2013 Peter rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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.

David R.
Dec 23, 2011 David R. rated it liked it
Shelves: science, economics
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
Dec 09, 2014 Drew Weatherton rated it liked it
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
Mar 02, 2012 Michael Connolly rated it liked it
Shelves: engineering, revisit
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
May 09, 2011 Chris Davis rated it really liked it
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
Jun 19, 2011 Chuck Weiss rated it really liked it
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.
May 24, 2009 Kmfurr rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nov 02, 2013 Liz rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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.
Dec 19, 2015 Paul rated it liked it
Well researched but much too short to be an interesting read - was hoping for something more in-depth.
Dec 06, 2012 Pete rated it did not like it
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.
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