Why isn't the inventor of the electronic digital computer more widely
The answer rests primarily with the fact
that John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert first claimed to be the
co-inventors of the electronic digital computer. For twenty-five years,
they were celebrated as its co-inventors, until an extensive federal
trial overturned their patent, and recognized Atanasoff as its inventor.
When the trial's decision was
published on October 19, 1973 - it was buried by the news of the Watergate
scandal's Saturday Night Massacre. In addition, Mauchly
continued to publicly present himself as its inventor. It is still
not uncommon to find this false attribution in books or other sources
What is the
exact date of Atanasoff's winter drive to Illinois? What is the name
of the roadhouse?
According to Atanasoff's nine days of testimony
in US District Court and statements he made throughout his life,
it is certain that he did travel to the present Illinois Quad Cities
(referred to as the Tri-Cities in the 1930s).
As he testified, I had reached the
Mississippi River, starting from Ames and was crossing the Mississippi
River into Illinois at a place where there are three cities, one
of which is Rock Island.
Although he did not specify which bridge
he crossed in his testimony, it is almost certain that he crossed
the Iowa-Illinois Memorial Bridge because it is on the route (Hwy
6) he drove. Also, the Centennial Bridge, which links downtown Davenport
with Rock Island, was not completed until 1939 - more than a full
year after Atanasoff's drive.
Several taverns have claimed to be the roadhouse
in which Atanasoff sat when he wrote his ideas on a napkin. However
there is no firm evidence to prove which establishment he actually
However, the exact details of
this historic journey elude us - in large part, because Atanasoff's
testimony came a third of a century after his journey. The fact that
he made this journey is not in dispute, but the exact day and destination
Where is the
original Atanasoff-Berry Computer?
Only a few parts of the original computer
exist. On one of his return visits to Ames in 1948, Atanasoff was
disappointed to learn that the computer had been removed from the
Physics Building and dismantled. Neither he nor Clifford Berry had
been notified that it was going to be destroyed.
Who owns the patent to the electronic digital computer?
No one. Following the attack
on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the work on the computer came to
a halt. Although Iowa State University had hired a Chicago patent lawyer,
Richard R. Trexler, the patenting of the ABC was never completed.
When Atanasoff was recognized as the inventor of the electronic digital computer in 1973, too much time had elapsed for him to file for the