Why isn't the inventor of the electronic digital computer more widely known?

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 of information.

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 visited.

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 are.

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 patent.




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