Michigan IT history: 75 years of the ENIAC

By | February 17, 2021
ENIAC on display at U-M.
The ENIAC display at the University of Michigan. (The Michigan Engineer)

February 15, 2021 marked the 75th anniversary of the dedication of the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC), which is generally regarded as the first general-purpose electronic digital computer capable of being reprogrammed to solve a range of computing problems. The development of the ENIAC was financed by the U.S. Army as a secret project during World War II. Its purpose was to solve the differential equations that described the trajectory of a shell in flight, electronically and with unprecedented speed.

The ENIAC was designed and constructed at the University of Pennsylvania between 1943 and 1946 and was officially unveiled to the public on February 14, 1946. The team of design engineers assisting the development included Arthur Burks, who received his Ph.D. from U-M in 1941. Burks later joined the faculty at Michigan, where he cofounded the graduate program in computing in 1957 and the Department of Computer and Communication Sciences in 1965. He also served as the first chair of the department.