The first generation

The first generation of electronic digital computers were built during the 1940s. They were known as mainframe computers. They were very large, difficult to use and extremely slow for they used vacuum tubes (or valves) for their operation. Machines of this generation were generally confined to academic and scientific uses in universities. Some notable systems were:

♦ The ENIAC computer - this was built at the University of Pennsylvania and came into use in 1946. It used a total of 18,000 electronic valves. It also consumed an area of space roughly equivalent to half a football field, weighed 30 tons, and performed about 300 multiplications of two 10-digit numbers per second.

♦ The Harvard Mark 1 - developed at Harvard University in 1945, the Mark 1 was capable of one multiplication every 3 seconds. The term 'debugging' (see Chapter 8) originated here when one of the computer scientists discovered a moth fused to the circuitry causing the machine to malfunction.

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