Speaker: Mark Priestly
About the seminar
ENIAC was a milestone in the history of electronic computer technology, but its idiosyncratic approach to programming has often been viewed as something of a dead end. In this talk I will challenge that assumption, and argue that ENIAC’s contribution to the development of software was, if anything, more significant than its contribution to hardware.
Drawing on little-known archival material, I will describe how a “paper program” written in 1943 profoundly shaped the design of ENIAC's hardware, how it was set up to interpret programs written in an EDVAC-style order code, and how that code was then used to program the Monte Carlo neutron diffusion simulations run in 1948. It will emerge that ENIAC not only laid the groundwork for the development of the principles of modern coding, but also supported the first implementation of the new approach.
About the speaker
Mark Priestley has worked as a programmer and a lecturer in software engineering. He is now an independent researcher into the history and philosophy of computing, currently focusing on programming practices in the 1940s. His latest book “ENIAC in Action: Making and Remaking the Modern Computer”, co-authored with Thomas Haigh and Crispin Rope, was published by MIT Press in early 2016.