What Happened Today, October 6th

 
Lotus Development Goes Public

Lotus Development Corp. went public after recording revenues of $12.8 million for the previous 12 months. The company, founded by Mitch Kapor and Jonathan Sachs in 1982, found its success with Kapor’s spreadsheet program, Lotus 1-2-3. Lotus 1-2-3 bypassed the operating system of the IBM PC, making it much faster than its competitors. In addition, its combination of spreadsheet capabilities with graphics and data retrieval made the program popular. IBM acquired Lotus in 1995.

What Happened This Week

 
ENIAC Computer Retired

After eleven years of calculating and processing programs, the ENIAC was retired. Designers John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert had unveiled the machine in February 1946, showing off its 1,000-time improvement in speed over its contemporaries. The ENIAC ran at 5,000 operations a second with a system of plug boards, switches, and punch cards. It occupied 1,000 square feet of floor space.

 
Transistor Inventors Receive Patent

The US Patent Office issued a patent to John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William Shockley for the transistor. The three AT&T Bell Laboratories researchers had successfully tested the first of their devices two years earlier. The transistor started a revolution in computer engineering that led to the development of the semiconductors, microprocessors, and integrated circuits common in modern computers.

 
Computer Pioneer Atanasoff Born

John Vincent Atanasoff was born in Hamilton, New York. As a math and physics professor at Iowa State University in the 1930s, he developed the idea for a calculating machine that would use binary arithmetic and electronic switching devices. He recruited a doctoral student, Clifford Berry, and together they built the Atanasoff-Berry Computer. The two innovators were only recognized much later for their work, which preceded John Mauchly’s better-publicized construction of the ENIAC. Atanasoff died on June 15, 1995.

 
Supercomputer Pioneer Cray Dies in Auto Accident

The father of the supercomputer, Seymour Cray, died due to injuries sustained in a car accident two weeks earlier. Cray was born September 28, 1925, in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. Cray worked among computer pioneers after graduating from the University of Minnesota in 1951 with bachelor’s and master’s degrees. With several others, he founded Control Data Corp., where he built the CDC 1604 and CDC 6600. The latter was the most powerful computer of its time -- three times more powerful than IBM’s STRETCH. Cray founded his own company, Cray Research, in 1972 and built supercomputers in a cylindrical design that aimed to cut down on the length of internal wiring. Crays are used primarily for scientific research and computer graphics.

 
Lotus Development Goes Public

Lotus Development Corp. went public after recording revenues of $12.8 million for the previous 12 months. The company, founded by Mitch Kapor and Jonathan Sachs in 1982, found its success with Kapor’s spreadsheet program, Lotus 1-2-3. Lotus 1-2-3 bypassed the operating system of the IBM PC, making it much faster than its competitors. In addition, its combination of spreadsheet capabilities with graphics and data retrieval made the program popular. IBM acquired Lotus in 1995.

 
The Computer Bowl Begins

The first round of The Computer Bowl, an annual televised game show of computer trivia pitting the gurus of the East versus the wizards of the West, was held. Mitch Kapor and Bill Joy were the MVPs, winning a place on the all star team.

 
Special US Stamp Commemorates ENIAC

The US Postal Service issued a special "Computer Technology" stamp to mark the 50th anniversary of the ENIAC. In a ceremony at the Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground, speakers paid tribute to computer pioneers with the image of a brain partially covered by small blocks that contain parts of circuit boards and binary language. The stamp was designed entirely on a computer. A Postal Service news release from October 8 introduced the stamp with a discussion of the ENIAC’s origins: "Long before PCs became standard office equipment and surfing on the information superhighway became a national obsession, calculations were done the ‘old-fashioned way’ by hand. And, as is often the case, it took a war to bring the world into the computer age specifically, the need for the United States Army to rapidly compute ballistic firing tables."