Question: Name the first operational general purpose computer.

The first operational general-purpose computer is widely recognized as the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC).

ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer)

  • Development: ENIAC was developed during World War II by John Presper Eckert and John Mauchly at the University of Pennsylvania. The project began in 1943 and was completed in 1945.
  • Purpose: Initially designed to calculate artillery firing tables for the United States Army’s Ballistic Research Laboratory, ENIAC was capable of being reprogrammed to solve a wide range of numerical problems.
  • Design:
  • Components: ENIAC used approximately 18,000 vacuum tubes, 1,500 relays, and weighed about 30 tons. It occupied about 1,800 square feet of space.
  • Operation: It could perform around 5,000 additions or subtractions per second, and more complex operations like multiplication, division, and square root extraction took significantly longer but were still remarkably fast for its time.
  • Programming: Programming ENIAC involved manually setting switches and connecting cables, a process that could take days for complex problems.
  • Significance: ENIAC was a significant leap forward in computing technology. It demonstrated the feasibility and potential of electronic digital computers. Unlike earlier special-purpose machines, ENIAC’s ability to be reprogrammed to handle different tasks marked it as a general-purpose computer.

ENIAC’s success paved the way for subsequent developments in computing, influencing the design of future computers and leading to the rapid advancement of computer technology in the post-war era.

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