March 1, 2010
Smithsonian renews loan with Northwest for ENIAC artifact
MARYVILLE, Mo. - The Smithsonian Institution is continuing its partnership with Northwest Missouri State University's Jean Jennings Bartik Computing Museum by renewing the museum's loan of an Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) Decade Ringer Counter.
The ENIAC Decade Ringer Counter has been on display in the Jennings Bartik Computing Museum since 2003. The loan renewal makes it possible to keep the artifact on display until January 2013.
Jean Jennings Bartik, whom Northwest's museum is named for, graduated from the Northwest in 1945 and was one of six women programmers - or computers as they were called then - chosen to program the ENIAC, the world's first successful electronic computer. Later, Jennings Bartik went on to program the UNIVAC, the world's first successful commercial computer.
The Smithsonian Institution is the world's largest museum complex and research organization with a vast collection numbering more than 142 million objects. The Smithsonian is composed of 16 museums and galleries, as well as, the National Zoo.
Kim Todd, client computing user consultant in Northwest's information systems department, serves as assistant director of the Jean Jennings Bartik Computing Museum. She said the ability to house the ENIAC Decade Ringer Counter and Northwest's affiliation with the Smithsonian are honors not many universities can claim.
"The fact that Northwest is affiliated with them, that we have a small toe-hold on a monumental historical event like the ENIAC through one of our own alumni, is just amazing," Todd said. "It's something that we all should be proud of because it truly impacted the world."
The ENIAC, which was capable of being reprogrammed to solve a host of computing problems, was designed and built to calculate artillery firing tables for the U.S. Army's Ballistic Research Laboratory. Its design and construction were financed by the United States Army during World War II, and development was conducted in secret in 1943 at the University of Pennsylvania. After its completion in 1946, at a cost of almost $500,000, PBS television heralded ENIAC as "the machine that changed the world."
More than 140 items are on display inside the Jean Jennings Bartik Computing Museum, which is located in the B.D. Owens Library on the Northwest campus. The museum includes a rare pot-metal miniature model of the UNIVAC I and a signed photograph of John Mauchly, the co-inventor of the ENIAC. The museum also has an extensive collection of Northwest computing hardware including an Altair 8800 computer, considered the first personal computer, and an Osborne portable computer, an ancestor to the modern laptop computer.
For more information about the Jean Jennings Bartik Computing Museum or to schedule a tour, contact the Information Systems Help Desk at 660.562.1634 or visit Northwest's online computing museum.
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