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Iowa History Daily: June 15 - Atanasoff's Digital Computer

Iowa History Daily: On June 15, 1995, inventor of the digital computer John Vincent Atanasoff died. Leader of an Iowa State University (then College) developed project resulting in the Atanasoff-Berry Computer (ABC), Atanasoff stands as a critical pioneer of the digital age.

Born in New York and raised primarily in Florida, Atanasoff attended the University of Florida before arriving in Ames to pursue a Master’s in mathematics. Finalizing his formal education with a PhD in theoretical physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Atanasoff returned to Ames to serve as a professor of mathematics and physics.

A $650 grant awarded to the young scientist in 1939 incorporated binary math and Boolean logic to create a digital machine capable of solving up to 29 linear equations simultaneously. With no Central Processing Unit, the machine relied on vacuum tubes for digital computation.

Over the course of World War II, a variety of projects including work on the Manhattan Project occupied Atanasoff’s time. John Mauchly developed similar computer concepts to the ABC machine, ultimately leading to the federal court’s ruling in the 1973 decision of Honeywell v. Sperry Rand, a federal judge named Atanasoff the inventor of the electronic digital computer. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryCalendar


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