Penn History

After ENIAC: Important Milestones and Fascinating Innovations During the Last Fifty Years of Computing Research at the University of Pennsylvania

This exhibit was researched and written by Nicholas G. Heavens, University Archives Summer Research Fellow, 2000-2002. He is an undergraduate at the University of Chicago and has been a University Archives Summer Research Fellow for the last three years. Much of this exhibit is based on his research of the history of computing at Penn in the summer of 2000.

Not many universities can claim to have seen the genesis of a technological revolution. The University of Pennsylvania was indeed fortunate to have been the site where the world’s first large-scale general purpose digital computer, the Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer (ENIAC), was built. Yet the history of the granddaddy of all modern computers has overshadowed much of the research and innovation that has occurred at Penn since the construction of ENIAC. Many brilliant researchers still walk through the halls of the Moore Building, whose dark basement once held the vast immensity of vacuum tubes and wires that was ENIAC. Indeed, innovative computer researchers walk through all of the Schools of the University of Pennsylvania.

While moving through this exhibit, take a look at some of the people, places, and ideas that have shaped the University’s use of all kinds of computer hardware and software.

John G. Brainerd, 1966
John G. Brainerd, 1966
1. John G. Brainerd
Saul Gorn, UNIVAC-1, 1950s
Saul Gorn, UNIVAC-1, 1950s
2. Saul Gorn and the University Computer Center (UCC)
Bennett Hall, 1956
3. World’s First Spelling and Grammar Checker
Remington-Rand Univac check presentation, 1962
4. Birth of COBOL
William S. Middleton, 1918
5. “Medicine before Automaton”
Breathing into the PDP-12
Breathing into the PDP-12
6. Breathing into the PDP-12
Aravind K. Joshi
Aravind K. Joshi
7. Aravind K. Joshi
"Bubbleman," software
“Bubbleman,” software
8. Bubbleman
Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania, 1956
9. Projects, Computer Languages
David J. Farber
David J. Farber
10. Aurora Testbed Initiatives
Institute for Research in Cognitive Science, logo
Institute for Research in Cognitive Science, logo
11. IRCS Improves Sorting of Search Engine Results