Al Gore Commemorates ENIAC and the 50th Anniversary of the Information Age; Half a Century Ago, the Modern Computer Was Born in Philadelphia

By Miller, Kathy | Information Today, March 1996 | Go to article overview

Al Gore Commemorates ENIAC and the 50th Anniversary of the Information Age; Half a Century Ago, the Modern Computer Was Born in Philadelphia


Miller, Kathy, Information Today


The Vice President of the United States, Albert Gore, Jr., flew into Philadelphia on February 14 to deliver a speech on information technology. The occasion was the 50th anniversary of the ENIAC (pronounced E-knee-ac), or Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer, the world's first high-speed, general-purpose, electronic digital computer. The 30-ton, 100-foot-long mammoth was built at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, developed under contract of the U.S. government to calculate ballistic tables for World War II. The creators didn't know that they were about to change the way the world operated.

Gore as Technology Advocate

Vice President Gore has long been known as an advocate for what came to be called the information superhighway. It seemed fitting, then, that the preside over the ceremonies that commemorated what the University of Pennsylvania touted as "The Birth of the Information Age."

In Gore's address, "The Technology Challenge: Can America Spark Private Innovation?" he asked the crowd gathered at Penn's Irvine Auditorium, "How do we spark the innovation that creates jobs, builds businesses, and improves lives?" His answer was two-fold. First, he said, there are a lot of smart, creative people in this country who team up with manufacturers and marketers to produce products that make a difference in people's lives. Second, he cited lyrics from the song "Dancing in the Dark" by rock star Bruce Springsteen: "You can't start a fire without a spark." And the federal government, Gore explained, has long provided the spark to young creators in the form of money for research projects.

So it was with ENIAC. "In the early days of the computer, no one knew where it would all lead," Gore said. Then he likened the birth of the computer 50 years ago with the birth of the Internet more recently. Networks were first built as a way for scientists to share information; no one knew that the money invested would lead to the creation of World Wide Web pages on everything from smashing atoms to the Smashing Pumpkins, the Vice President quipped.

Information Politics

Gore's main point, and the one that made all the soundbites on Philadelphia's evening news broadcasts, was that the government must continue to fund these sorts of research projects to provide the sparks that lead to the fires of progress. He disagrees with the Republican-dominated Congress' attempts to cut by one-third the funding for civilian computer research and development.

After a hearty round of applause for that statement, Gore promised that he wasn't just saying that to "pander to the all-important scientist swing vote." Rather, he said, "I think it's wrong to turn back to the past and away from the future," adding that the government must continue to "fund adequately" science and information technology.

ENIAC Revisited

The next order of business was a "reenactment of a defining moment in America's history," according to Penn's public relations literature. The Vice President joined other dignitaries in the nearby Moore Building, home of ENIAC, to switch on a still-existing piece of the giant computer. This whole ceremony was simulcast to several sites on campus, since space in the room housing ENIAC was limited.

First there was a welcome by Penn's president, Dr. Judith Rodin, who then introduced James Unruh, chairman and CEO of Unisys Corporation, and Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell, who share her duties as heads of the official ENIAC celebration committee. After each made brief remarks, Congressman Bob Walker, chair of the House Science Committee, offered a short rhyme that summed up the forward-looking philosophy of the computer revolution: "After ENIAC, there's no turning back."

Finally, in front of distinguished scholars, scientists, countless media representatives, and the surviving creators of the great machine, Gore flipped the switch that turned the antiquated computer back on. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Al Gore Commemorates ENIAC and the 50th Anniversary of the Information Age; Half a Century Ago, the Modern Computer Was Born in Philadelphia
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.