Friday April 21, 2017

Harry Huskey, Pioneering Computer Scientist and Creator of First PC Has Died at 101

Dr. Harry Huskey is accredited in history as the inventor of the first personal PC. The definition of a personal computer is a computer that only takes one person to operate. This is important as the PC that Dr. Huskey invented was the size of two large refrigerators. He did invent an earlier machine using relays at Ohio University, but abandoned it due to expense and a lack of an immediate use for it. He had multiple math degrees and was a teacher's assistant at Ohio State where he eventually graduated in 1937. There he met his first wife Velma Roeth who wrote about computers and later assisted her husband in opening computing centers in India.

Dr. Huskey taught math to Navy students at the University of Pennsylvania. In dire need of money to support his daughters, Dr. Huskey started his professional computing career working on the top secret projects ENIAC and EDVAC after being rejected from enlisting in the armed forces during World War II due to poor eyesight. This was the beginning of a 50 year career in computers as he effectively saw literally everything develop in the field from the start until his death this past April 9th, 2017. He even invented the predecessor to the first laptop. Don't forget to read his oral history linked in the article. Here is a cached version as the article's link was broken for me.

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Thank you Dr. Harry Huskey for inventing the technology we may sometimes take for granted nowadays. Without pioneers like you, the world would be a much more primitive and disconnected place.

Dr. Huskey, a professor emeritus at the University of California, Santa Cruz, began his digital career in the mid-1940s with the Eniac, a behemoth that was considered the country’s first general-purpose programmable electronic computer. A top-secret federal government project at the University of Pennsylvania, it measured 100 feet long, weighed 30 tons and contained 18,000 vacuum tubes.

He later worked with the pioneering British mathematician Alan M. Turing on a prototype of another early computer, the Automatic Computing Engine; oversaw development of yet another, the SWAC (Standards Western Automatic Computer); and in 1954 designed the G-15, a 950-pound predecessor to today’s laptops.

The G-15, a problem-solving computer that could be operated by one person, was sold to the Bendix Aviation Corporation, which sold it to scientific researchers and corporate customers for the retail price of $50,000.