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Battle by binary

ENIAC Target practice

Target across the world

The ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer) is considered by many to be the first computer in the modern sense of the word. The origins of this machine can be traced back to early 1939, when the USA was facing the prospect of becoming involved in the war breaking out across Europe. At the time, the only scientific facility available to the US Military for testing new weapons was the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. Unfortunately, such testing was a cumbersome business. A primary aim of the proposed new machine was to calculate the trajectory range of missiles under varying conditions, much faster than the methods of the time. The machine was not fully operational until late 1945, as World War II came to an end, but it found use over the following 10 years in a variety of fields such as weather prediction, random-number studies, and wind-tunnel design; before eventually being succeeded by other computers such as the EDVAC and ORDVAC. The status of the ENIAC as a true computer is debatable; it was not programmable initially (a 100 word memory was eventually added toward the end of its life in 1953). All the same, it was able to carry out complex calculations at a speed unparalleled in its day.

War is never good, but have any good things come from it? This article is part of a series by James Snee, Marc Trepanier, Daniel Valverde and Yi Ming Woo, students at Queen Mary, University of London, investigating how military and security concerns are linked with the advancement of technology.