History of Computing
Father of Computer

ACE, ENIAC and EDVAC: the journey from conceptualization to implementation

Just after the completion of the war, Max Newman founded the Royal Society Computing Machine Laboratory at Manchester University, with the aim of building a high-speed, general-purpose, stored-program digital computing device from a large number of vacuum tubes. With the same purpose in mind, Turing joined the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in London. Soon he brought a proposal on how to design and develop an electronic stored-program digital computer for scientific work in the Mathematics division and it was christened as Automatic Computing Engine or ACE (by John Womersley, his senior). The proposal Contained detailed circuit designs, specification of hardware units, specimen program in machine code and even an estimate of the construction cost of the device.

In 1945, as mentioned earlier, Von Neumann wrote the first draft report on EDVAC. EDVAC was the first electronic stored-program digital computer to be proposed in the U.S. ACE and EDVAC had fundamental difference - like Ace used distributed processing while EDVAC had a centralized structure. Von Neumann, conceiver of EDVAC was a distinguished figure and his writings and public addresses made the concept of high-speed, stored-program digital computer, widely known. Thus these computers, though inappropriate, are often referred to as the "Von Neumann machine".

As far as Turing is concerned, from the very beginning he had a fixation about speed and memory of the computer. However, due to organizational difficulties at NPL, the work on Turing's ACE was progressing very slowly and in 1948, Turing left NPL for Newman's Computing Machine Laboratory at Manchester University. In 1950, the small pilot model of ACE was completed (by Wilkinson, Edward, Woodger and others) and it executed a program with an operating speed of 1 MHZ. It was regarded as the world's fastest computer for sometime.

The production version of the pilot model ACE was called DEUCE and its sale exceeded thirty. Turing's ACE design became the torchbearer for many other computers, of which Bendix G15 is mention worthy. G15 was perhaps the first personal computer in the world. As regarding the production of EDVAC (1945), it took six years to be completed. But since the originators were no more involved, others had to complete it.

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