Last week, we put together an article that told you about how Iowa State University contributed to the end of World War II in a massive way.

This week, we've got another story from Ames that will blow your mind. Pun intended.

You read the title of this article correctly. The first ever digital, electronic computer was designed and made functional in the state of Iowa.

According to ece.iastate.edu,

The Atanasoff-Berry Computer (ABC) was the world’s first electronic digital computer. John Vincent Atanasoff, a former Iowa State professor of physics and mathematics, and Clifford Berry, a former physics graduate student and electrical engineering undergraduate, built the computer at Iowa State University from 1937 to 1942.

The ABC quite literally looked nothing like today's computers. You've probably seen those massive machines that helped America reach outer space in the 1960s, and that had less computing power than the phone in your pocket (or hand) right now. The ABC was sort of like that, but didn't have anywhere near the capabilities of the technology America possessed during the first moon landing.

This monstrous contraption was the size of a large desk, and weighed upwards of 750 pounds. It used rotating drums for memory storage, had glowing vacuum tubes, and a reading and writing system that recorded input by blazing small marks on paper.

Although in appearance today's computers and the ABC aren't similar in the slightest, there are several functions from the ABC that are still in practice with today's computers. The aforementioned site adds the following correlations:

a binary system of arithmetic, separate memory and computing functions, regenerative memory, parallel processing, electronic amplifiers as on-off switches, circuits for logical addition and subtraction, clocked control of electronic operations, and a modular design.

Believe it or not, there was a bit of a squabble between Atanasoff and J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly, developers of the ENIAC machine at the University of Pennsylvania. As Atanasoff and Berry were told to delegate their engineering efforts elsewhere during the start of World War II, they were unable to obtain a patent before Eckert and Mauchly. Due to Berry's death in 1963, the legal battle ensued without him as to who first created the design of an electric computer.

Iowa State's Electrical and Computer Engineering site continued the story: 

In 1973, however, U.S. District Judge Earl R. Larson overturned the ENIAC patents, writing, 'Eckert and Mauchly did not themselves first invent the automatic electronic digital computer, but instead derived that subject matter from one Dr. John Vincent Atanasoff.'

President George H. W. Bush would ultimately award Atanasoff the National Medal of Technology and Innovation on November 13, 1990.

Per uspto.gov, the award is

the nation’s highest honor for technological achievement, bestowed by the president of the United States on America's leading innovators.

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