J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly, inventors of the ENIAC, examine a printout of the computer's results in newsreel footage, February 1946
John Mauchly was born on August 30, 1907, in Cincinnati, Ohio. He spent most of his youth in Chevy Chase, Maryland. In 1925, he enrolled as an undergraduate at Johns Hopkins University, receiving his undergraduate degree in just two years. He immediately entered Johns Hopkins University's graduate program in physics, and he received his doctorate in 1932. Mauchly then became a physics professor at Ursinus College in Pennsylvania, a position that he held from 1933 until 1941.
In 1941, Mauchly enrolled at the Moore School of Engineering of the University of Pennsylvania to further his education. He became friends with J. Presper Eckert, another graduate of the Moore School. These two men remained at the Moore School as professors, researching the uses of vacuum tubes for the United States military during World War II.
While at the Moore School, Mauchly and Eckert designed the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, which is better known as ENIAC. Construction of ENIAC began in 1944. It took workers eighteen months to complete the machine, and it cost over 500,000 dollars. ENIAC weighed over thirty tons and consisted of 17,468 vacuum tubes, seventy thousand resistors, five million soldered joints, ten thousand capacitors, six thousand manual switches, and 1,500 relays. The computer covered 1,800 square feet of floor space. ENIAC used approximately 160 kilowatts of electricity, causing Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where the computer was located, to experience brownouts when the machine was in operation.
ENIAC was not the first computer in world history. It did, however, dramatically improve computing technology. Antiquated by modern computing standards, for the time period, ENIAC was an incredible machine. In a single second, it could perform five thousand additions, thirty-eight divisions, or three hundred multiplications. It was one thousand times faster than calculators of this time period.
ENIAC remained in operation until October 2, 1955. By this time, ENIAC had become outdated. Mauchly, Eckert, and others had already designed more powerful computers, including the EDVAC. In 1947, Mauchly and Eckert left the Moore School and formed their own company, the Eckert Mauchly Computer Corporation, with Mauchly as president. This firm continued to design computers, including the UNIVAC, the first computer designed for business use, and the BINAC, a much smaller computer than previously invented. In 1950, Remington Rand purchased the Eckert Mauchly Computer Corporation. Mauchly served as this firm's Director of Univac Applications Research until 1959.
Mauchly remained involved in the computer industry for the rest of his life. He helped found the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and also helped establish the Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM). In 1960, he formed Mauchly Associates, a computer consulting company, and in 1967, he formed Dynatrend, another consulting firm. Mauchly died on January 8, 1980.