Science: Eniac

After consuming and partly digesting lobster bisque, filet mignon and half a dozen speeches, half a hundred of the nation's topflight scientists and mathematicians got up from the table in the University of Pennsylvania's Houston Hall. They trooped three blocks down the street to the Moore Electrical Engineering School, to witness the first public demonstration of the latest and greatest mechanical brain—a series of dials, 18,000 tubes and cabinets, occupying an entire room.

The huge gadget was known as the "electronic numerical integrator and computer." Its inventors—Dr. John W. Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert—called it "eniac." For their blue-ribbon audience, they demonstrated...