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The EDVAC. A Preliminary Report on Logic and Design. Report No. 48-2.
Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, Moore School of Electrical Engineering, February 16, 1948. First edition of this extremely rare report on the EDVAC, the world's first stored-program electronic computer, which includes sections on the design logic as well as many pages of calculations and operating mathematical formulas. This report, which includes the Organization of the EDVAC, the Input-Output System, Performance Details, Speed of Operation, Controls, Example of Operation, Aids to Maintenance and Indicated Improvements, appears to be the only contemporary report that includes full size blue-line print drawings of components and the architecture of the EDVAC. "Its major influence was that it was the first stored-program electronic digital computer to be described at this level of detail and, as such, set the paradigm for many of the first-generation machines. The design, and in particular the concept of using mercury delay lines for the memory, influenced several of the early machines, the Cambridge EDSAC (for which Maurice Wilkes deliberately chose a similar name to show the connection) and the SEAC being the most famous" (Williams, p. 26). It is unknown how many copies of this report were printed, but similar EDVAC reports from this time period had printings of 15 to 50 sets, most for distribution to other scientists or institutions. The copy at the University of Pennsylvania corresponds to this copy in collation. OCLC locates 5 copies (Brown, Florida, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Wayne State). Only one copy has appeared at auction (Pacific Book Auction Galleries, 20 November 2008, lot 45, $3300). Building on ideas formulated by innovators in computers, mathematics and physics such as V.J. Atanasoff and Alan Turing, the Moore School of Electrical Engineering of the University of Pennsylvania, led by J. Presper Eckert and John V. Mauchly, became one of the developers of what would become the modern computer. Eckert and Mauchly were tasked by the US Army's Ballistics Research Lab to create the ENIAC (Electronic Numerator, Integrator, Analyzer, and Computer) for use in solving ballistics, trajectories and ranges for new weaponry. The ENIAC machine weighed about 30 tons, covered about 1000 square feet of floor space, and used almost 18000 vacuum tubes. Even as the ENIAC was nearing operation, Eckert and Mauchly recognized its limitations. As early as January, 1944 Eckert drafted a memorandum discussing the stored-program concept of computing, which would eventually be realized in a machine called the EDVAC (Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer). The EDVAC, a General-Purpose Internal Stored Program Computers as it would come to be known, is considered one of the origin points of today's modern PC computer technology. As the end of World War II approached, Eckert and Mauchly began to see value in the computer beyond military use and began to consider the need to patent their ideas. At this time, the team at the Moore School was joined by John von Neumann, from the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. It is von Neumann who most researchers (and patent lawyers) credit with solving the design of the EDVAC as outlined in his First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC, 1945. The EDVAC continued development with 3 or 4 official reports issued between 1945 and 1949. "At the time von Neumann began collaborating with the ENIAC group, planning for ENIAC's delay-line successor was already under way. The Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer, or EDVAC, "would be quite flexible in its control facilities, would have about 50 times as large a memory, i.e., be able to store about 1000 ten decimal digit numbers, and contain only about 1/10 as many tubes," Goldstine and von Neumann reported. The machine would be programmed by loading coded sequences into high-speed memory rather than by setting cables and switches by hand ... "In the closing months of World War II, von Neumann circulated between Princeton, Los Alamos, Washington, Philadelphia, and Aberdeen, conveying a stream of new ideas. "None of us was important enough to have persuaded people to accept this kind of thing," says Goldstine. "In the first place, von Neumann had a real built-in need at Los Alamos ... They had an enormous IBM punched card installation out there doing implosion calculations. I just don't believe any of us could have gone and persuaded somebody like Fermi of the importance of numerical calculation the way von Neumann could. "In early 1945, during the final push to finish and test the atomic bomb, von Neumann's notes on the EDVAC project were typed up under Goldstine's supervision and distilled into a 105-page report. The "First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC," reproduced by mimeograph and released into limited distribution by the Moore School on June 30, 1945, outlined the design of a high-speed stored-program electronic digital computer, including the requisite formulation and interpretation of coded instructions -- "which must be given to the device in absolutely exhaustive detail." "The functional elements of the computer were separated into a hierarchical memory, a control organ, a central arithmetic unit, and input/output channels, making distinctions still known as the "von Neumann architecture" today. A fast internal memory, coupled to a larger secondary memory, and linked in turn to an unlimited supply of punched cards or paper tape, gave the unbounded storage that Turing had prescribed. The impediment of a single channel between memory and processor is memorialized as the "von Neumann bottle-neck," although its namesake attempted, unsuccessfully, to nip this in the bud. "The whole system will be well balanced, so, that if it is properly and intelligently used, there will be no bottlenecks," he explained to Max Newman, "even not at the outputs and inputs of the human intellects with which it has to be matched." "When a subject captured von Neumann's attention, he reconstituted it on his own terms from the bottom up. Digital computing required no such process of reduction; it was all axioms from the start. In 1945 the ENIAC and EDVAC were still classified military projects. Von Neumann could speak freely in logical abstractions, but not in specific electronic circuits. So he did. He was also, as Julian Bigelow put it, "clever enough to know that his forte was not in experimental work or in making things function in the real world." "During the war, both open publication and individual credit had been suspended -- for both computers and bombs. After the war, it was decided that bombs would be kept secret and computers would be made public, with a scramble for credit as a result. The EDVAC report engendered widespread controversy, despite the small number of copies that were distributed before the mimeograph stencils gave out. Von Neumann was listed as the sole author, without any acknowledgment of the contributions made by other members of the EDVAC group. Eckert and Mauchly, who had been pledged to silence about the ENIAC and EDVAC, felt slighted by a publication that was based on their own unpublished work. "Johnny was rephrasing our logic, but it was still the SAME logic," says Mauchly. Adding injury to insult, the EDVAC report would be deemed to constitute a legal publication invalidating any patents not filed within a year ... "With the war over, individual interests eclipsed the interests of the United States. The Moore School was too academic for Eckert and Mauchly, and not academic enough for von Neumann. Eckert and Mauchly left to form the Electronic Control Company and build commercial computers first BINAC and then UNIVAC, a brand synonymous with computing for a time. Von Neumann decided to go build his own computer, as a scientific instrument, somewhere else. Spare time on the ENIAC and even the EDVAC would not be enough. "It was, therefore, the most natural thing that von Neumann felt that he would like to have at his own disposal such a machine," says Willis Ware. "If he really wanted a computer, the thing to do was to build it," adds Arthur Burks. "Von Neumann's initial thinking was to transplant the entire core of the ENIAC group ... Eckert declined von Neumann's invitation to lead the IAS engineering team, going into business with Mauchly for himself, while von Neumann entered into a series of lucrative personal consulting contracts with IBM" (Dyson, Turing's Cathedral, pp. 77-81). "When Eckert, Mauchly, and others left the Moore School early in 1946, the job of heading up the EDVAC project fell to T.K. (Kite) Sharpless who, after graduating with an MS in electrical engineering from the Moore School in 1943, stayed on to become a teacher and member of the ENIAC and EDVAC projects. Sharpless himself left in 1947 ... The next manager to be appointed was Louis Tabor, whose tenure lasted for only a few months. Finally, the task of project manager and chief engineer was given to Richard L. Snyder, who saw the project through to the point where a machine was actually shipped from the Moore School to the Army's Ballistic Research Laboratories at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. Snyder left the Moore School at this time and followed the machine to the Ballistic Research Laboratories" (Williams, p. 26). The detailed design was finalized in May, 1947, and construction then began. Since the Moore School's ability to fabricate delicate mechanical components was inadequate for the task, the National Bureau of Standards agreed to assume responsibility for the design of the magnetic wire input and output system; they in turn contracted it out to the Reeves Instrument Corporation. In late 1949 it was moved to the Army Ordnance Department, Aberdeen Proving Ground, for final assembly and testing. However, it did not run its first application programme until October 28, 1951. Not in OOC. Williams, 'The Origins, Uses, and Fate of the EDVAC,' IEEE Annals of the History of Computing 15 (1993), pp. 22-38 ( 4to (277 x 216 mm), ff. [1], iii, 100 (i.e. 102), with two full-page diagrams inserted in text and three large folding plans in pocket at rear. Original cloth backed wrappers (cloth starting to peel away at ends of spine).
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