This Day in History
April 9, 1919
ENIAC Designer Presper Eckert Born
Presper Eckert is born in Philadelphia. Eckert was one of the seminal figures in the history of computing for his work, with John Mauchly, on the ENIAC project (1943-1946). He received Bachelor's (1941) and Master's (1943) degrees at the Moore School of Engineering (University of Pennsylvania). Both Eckert and Mauchly had experience with the copy of Bush's Differential Analyzer at the Moore School and this machine in part influenced the ENIAC design. ENIAC was meant to solve the "calculator problem" -- the disproportionate amount of calculation time required to solve the scientific problems of the day -- by using electronics since, as Mauchly remarked: "Wires are cheaper than shafts and ball bearings and gears and things..."
Interestingly, the Moore School was awarded the ENIAC contract on Eckert's 24th birthday and itself was becoming a widely-influential home for early computer engineering through its summer courses (begun in 1941) given, in part, by the ENIAC designers.
Eckert went on with Mauchly to found the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation (1947) and, after a series of technical and managerial disappointments, sold the company to Remington-Rand in 1950. Eckert assumed various senior management roles within the new organization which, despite an early lead, competed with great difficulty against IBM's sales force.
Eckert was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1969 and is listed as inventor or co-inventor on 87 patents. Each year, the Eckert-Mauchly award is given by the ACM for outstanding contributions to computer architecture. Eckert died June 3, 1995 in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.