BINAC

From Academic Kids

BINAC, the Binary Automatic Computer, was an early electronic computer designed for Northrop Aircraft Company by J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly in 1949.

The BINAC was a bit-serial binary computer with two independent CPUs, each with its own 512- word acoustic mercury delay line memory. The CPUs continuously compared results to check for errors caused by hardware failures. It used approximately 700 vacuum tubes. The 512-word acoustic mercury delay line memories were divided into 16 channels each holding 32 words of 31 bits, with an additional 11-bit space between words to allow for circuit delays in switching. The clock rate was 4.25 MHz (1 MHz according to one source) which yielded a word time of about 10 microseconds. The addition time was 800 microseconds and the multiplication time was 1200 microseconds. New programs or data had to be entered manually in octal using an eight-key keypad. BINAC was significant for being able to perform high-speed arithmetic on binary numbers, with no provisions to store characters or decimal digits.

The BINAC ran its first test program (consisting of 23 instructions) in March 1949, although it wasn't fully functional at the time.

Northrop picked up BINAC in September 1949. Northrop employees said that BINAC never worked properly after it was delivered, although it worked at the Eckert-Mauchly workshop. It was able to run some small problems but didn't work well enough to be used as a production machine. The failures were attributed to it not being properly shipped when Northrop picked it up.

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