The famous early computer, ENIAC, was officially declared operational on this day in 1946. It was the first programmable general-purpose electronic computer in the world.
ENIAC was short for Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer. ENIAC has remained an icon of the history of electronic computers to this day, especially since it was a unique design (only one such computer was ever made).
It is interesting that ENIAC was originally developed for calculating ballistic tables for U.S. Army artillery. Development was started within the framework of the Ballistic Research Laboratory (BRL) institute, which conducted ballistic tests for the U.S. Army.
The Americans soon realized that ENIAC can also be used for calculations related to thermonuclear bombs, a new weapon potentially many times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (the bombings were conducted only half a year before the ENIAC became fully operational).
Unlike today’s computers, ENIAC was not based on binary, but on decimal code. It was physically huge compared to contemporary computers, containing 17,468 vacuum tubes, and weighed over 27 tons.
The ENIAC took up around 167 square meters of space, and had around 150 kW (roughly 204 hp). It was sometimes joked that the lights in Philadelphia dimmed briefly each time ENIAC was turned on.