1-18. VON NEUMAN SUMMARIZES KEY CONCEPTS OF THE MODERN "STORED
PROGRAM" COMPUTER (1945)
a. Von Neuman Translates Abstract Theory into Practical Terms.
Hungarian-born, John Von Neuman was a mathematical genius and a member of the
prestigious Institute of Study in Princeton. He was hired as a special consultant to help
Eckert and Mauchley on the hydrogen bomb testing and ongoing work on EDVAC, one
of the first stored program computers. Von Neuman had the vision to realize the
modern computer could be an all-purpose tool, not just a high-speed calculator. He
also had a knack for translating abstract mathematical theory into practical terms. In
June 1945, less than a year after joining the Eckert and Mauchley team, he wrote a
101-page memorandum summarizing the team's plans for EDVAC. His clear
description of the machine and its inner logic drew the attention of Herman Goldstine,
the Army liaison officer who had sought him out for the project. Goldstine was so
impressed with the memo that he sent it to scientists and professors in both the U.S.
and England (committing a breach of military secrecy). In the memo, Von Neuman
outlined the key concepts of the modern stored program computer. His prestige lent
credibility to computer research. Many of the readers erroneously assumed that all the
ideas in the memo, especially the proposal to store programs in the computer's
memory, were Von Neuman's. This angered Eckert and Mauchley, who had not been
able to publish anything about EDVAC because of the military secrecy of the project.
This led to the eventual dissolution of the team,
b. "Von Neuman's First Draft of a Report on EDVAC." Von Neuman
described a computer that would have a very simple, fixed physical structure. It would
not need changes in hardware like ENIAC, and yet it would be able to perform any kind
of computation effectively. The means would be a properly programmed control.
Although, all of the ideas were not uniquely his own, Von Neuman did contribute to a
new understanding of how practical fast computers should be organized and built.
These ideas, often referred to as the "stored-program theory," which became
fundamental for future generations of high-speed digital computers and were universally
c. Features of the Stored Program Computer. The stored program technique
involves many more features than the one named which, in combination, make very
high-speed operations, such as 1,000 arithmetic operations per second, feasible.
stored program computer model: A design theory upon which most modern
computers are based. It holds that instructions as well as data should be stored
internally in the machine in magnetic form, so they can be altered as the program