von Neumann documentary clip

Brent Hilpert hilpert at cs.ubc.ca
Fri Feb 27 14:41:17 CST 2015

On 2015-Feb-26, at 7:51 AM, Evan Koblentz wrote:

>> Fuel for the eternal fire: Goldstine seems to be pretty definite in attributing the stored-program concept to Johnny.
> Prominent science historian Tom Haigh recently led a team of researchers to get to the bottom of this.

Thanks for the link, the articles were very interesting.


> Their work resulted in three recent academic papers and a new book coming soon, in which they clearly found that ENIAC was up-and-running in stored-program configuration a short time before the Manchester and any other computers: www.eniacinaction.com.

The authors of the articles carefully avoid declarations of ENIAC as a stored-program machine. They separate out 3 aspects from the "First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC"  (the "modern code paradigm" as defined by them, the "von Neumann architecture paradigm", and the "EDVAC hardware paradigm") and show how the 1948-modified ENIAC (to provide it with an instruction-set-based programming capability) implemented the "modern code paradigm". While that was a couple of months before the Baby, it is not the same (by the authors own definitions and intent) as making it a stored-program machine.

In modern terminology, I would suggest the 1948 ENIAC would be classed (as far as it can be) as Harvard-Architecture or a form of modified-Harvard-Architecture machine.

> John v.N. showed up after this, wrote down what he learned there, and sat back while everyone started calling it the "von Neumann architecture".

Von Neumann was around the project years before the 46-48 modifications. He produced the Draft Report on the EDVAC - from which those modifications were conceptually derived - in 1945. As presented in the articles, the modifications were von Neumann's idea and implemented in consultation with him.

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