Iowa’s Tech Breakthrough: The Birthplace of the World’s First Digital Computer
Herbert Hoover, 31st President of the United States, was born in West Branch, Iowa. The Field of Dreams movie is one of the most popular and iconic baseball movies of all time and was filmed in Dyersville, Iowa. Ashton Kutcher was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
But did you know that this article is being written on...and read from...an invention that came from the Hawkeye State as well?
The Worlds First Digital Computer Came From Iowa
The Atanasoff-Berry Computer (ABC) was an early electronic digital computer that was built in the late 1930s and early 1940s by John Atanasoff and Clifford Berry. (Wikipedia) They basically wanted to "design capacitors to store data in binary form and electronic logic circuits to perform addition and subtraction."
They wanted storage & a calculator.
What Did the First Computer Do?
The answer is...not much as compared to the computers of today. Let's break it down.
Okay, so you know how we used to have toys that helped us learn how to count with, blocks? Well, the first computer was a really big machine that could do count like that, but instead of blocks, it used something called "bits" to represent the numbers.
And instead of using your fingers to do the math, this big machine used something called vacuum tubes. Vacuum tubes are like little light bulbs, but instead of giving off light, they helped the computer do the math by turning on and off really fast.
And that's how the first electronic computer, the Atanasoff-Berry Computer, was able to do math and counting using bits and vacuum tubes.
So, Where Was the First Computer Actually Born?
The ABC was developed at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. Just another thing to be proud of when bagging on your Illinois friends.