John Vincent Atanasoff

The First Digital Computer Creator

      John Vincent Atanasoff was an American physicist and inventor. He invented the first digital computer in the 1930's at Iowa State College, where he started working on his master's degree and teaching two undergraduate mathematics classes.

      Once there he started doing experiments with vacuum tubes and radio, and examining the field of electronics.  After examining many mathematical devices available at the time, Atanasoff concluded that they fell into two classes—analog and digital. Since the term digital was not used until much later, Atanasoff contrasted the analog devices to what he called computing machines proper.

     In 1942 Atanasoff decided to leave Iowa State on leave for a defense-related position at the Naval Ordnance Laboratory in Washington, D.C. He was in charge of developing a computer for the United States Navy. At the same time, he became involved in the first atomic test in the Pacific, a project that he liked very much.

     In 1949 he became chief scientist for the Army Field Forces in Fort Monroe, Virginia. After one year, he returned to Washington as director of the Navy Fuse Program at the Naval Ordnance Laboratory. He stayed in that position until late 1951. In 1952 he established the Ordnance Engineering Corporation, a research and engineering company in Rockville, Maryland up until he retired.

    After retirement Atanasoff worked in the area of computer education for young people and developed a phonetic alphabet for use with computers.

Replica of the Atanasoff Computer 

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