While it wasn’t the first computer, John von Neumann’s MANIAC (Mathematical Analyzer, Numerical Integrator and Computor) is the ancestor of “virtually every computer on the planet today,” according to the Princeton Alumni Weekly. Von Neumann developed the machine at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study, following the conceptual work of Alan Turing (the subject of the recently-released movie, “The Imitation Game”) and improving upon the ENIAC machine developed at Penn. In contrast to ENIAC, von Neumann’s MANIAC could store programs in its memory, and significantly increased the speed of astronomical mathematical calculations that had taken hours, even days, before.
Since von Neumann wanted his invention to revolutionize computing, he published the blueprint widely and did not copyright it. The scientists at Los Alamos adopted his plans and created another MANIAC (Mathematical and Numerical Integrator and Calculator). The computer was eventually used to prove the feasibility of the hydrogen bomb, in “a single calculation that ran for 60 days and nights in 1951.” A few months later, the first ever thermonuclear bomb was detonated in the Pacific Ocean, producing a fireball 30 times bigger than that in Hiroshima.
The MANIAC was also used for plenty of less sinister designs, however. In 1956, it became the first machine to beat a human in a “chess-like game,” (a six-by-six version dubbed “Los Alamos Chess.”) It was also used for early research in genetics, and to discover new subatomic particles. It helped spur the computer revolution, and is the conceptual blueprint for every computer in existence.
WOOFs December 29 – January 2
Monday (Dec. 29): MANIAC — Acronym designating “Mathematical Analyzer, Numerical Integrator and Computor,” an electronic calculator designed by John von Neumann, the famous mathematician-physicist and practical jokester. Rushed into existence by von Neumann in 1951 to facilitate the astronomical calculations requisite for the construction of the hydrogen bomb. (1963 Domesday Dictionary)
Tuesday (Dec. 30): Housewife Time — Broadcast time period between 10:00 A.M. and 4:00 P.M. (1974 Broadcast Communications Dictionary)
Wednesday (Dec. 31): Astaroth — (Occult) A supernatural demon who tempts mortals with idleness and the easy life. Has the body of a spider capped by three heads — a cat and a frog flanking the head of an old man with pointed ears. Also the Phoenician goddess of lasciviousness, equivalent to the Babylonian Ishtar. (1979 Fantasy Almanac)
Thursday (Jan. 1): Hoved Out — Swollen with drink. (1997 Slanguage: A Dictionary of Irish Slang)
Friday (Jan. 2): Glaucus — Son of Hippolochus, the son of Bellerophon. He assisted Priam in the Trojan war, and was noted for his folly in exchanging his golden armour with Diomedes for iron armour. (1953 Short Dictionary of Mythology)