Happy 72nd Birthday, ENIAC!

Today, we (okay, maybe just ubernerds like me) celebrate the 72nd anniversary of the formal dedication of ENIAC (Electronic Numeric Integrator and Computer), one of the earliest electronic programmable general-purpose computers.

Dubbed the “Giant Brain” in newspaper articles, it cost roughly $487,000 (equivalent to just under $7 million in 2018). It was programmed using patch cords, as seen in the photo.

ENIAC used roughly 18,000 vacuum tubes, which would frequently burn out, requiring round-the-clock maintenance to change tubes. This led to roughly 50% up-time. Later on, engineers were able to reduce the rate of tube failures to an average of once every two days, and by 1954, the longest reported up-time without a tube failure was nearly 5 days in a row.

While we’ve come a long way since then, at least the ENIAC wasn’t vulnerable to being dropped into a puddle, left behind at a restaurant, washed with a pair of jeans, or destroyed by exploding batteries. From that perspective, we may have actually regressed a bit.

Happy Birthday, ENIAC!

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