Dr. Harry Huskey is most closely associated with
construction of the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) which first ran in February 1946, and was one of the world's first working computers. ENIAC was constructed
with the aim of calculating artillery firing tables for the U.S. Army's Ballistic Research Laboratory; although it was first used to assess the design of thermonuclear weapons.
ENIAC was activated at the University of Pennsylvania on February 15, 1946. The machine operated at a speed one thousand times faster than electro-mechanical machines. This speed required a device over 100 feet (30 meters) long, weighing 30 tonnes, an being composed of 18,000 valves and 1,500 relays.
The computer was one of the first "Turing complete
" devices, as defined by having the appropriate system of data-manipulation rules (such as a computer's instruction set, a programming language, or a cellular automaton). The term is named after Alan Turing.
ENIAC was designed by John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert assisted by:
Robert F. Shaw (function tables),
Jeffrey Chuan Chu (divider/square-rooter),
Thomas Kite Sharpless (master programmer),
Frank Mural (master programmer), Arthur Burks (multiplier),
Harry Huskey (reader/printer).
Jack Davis (accumulators).
At the time of his involvement, Huskey taught mathematics at the University of Pennsylvania.
Harry Huskey was born in the Smoky Mountains region of North Carolina in 1916. In 1943 he gained a doctorate from the Ohio State University, this was for his thesis "Contributions to the Problem of Geocze." After his work on ENIAC, Huskey worked on the Pilot ACE computer (one of the first computers built in the U.K.) with Alan Turing.
led the construction of the Standards Western Automatic Computer located at the National Bureau of Standards in Los Angeles (1949–1953). He followed this by designing the G15 computer for Bendix Aviation Corporation. This was arguably the world's first "personal" computer since Huskey used one of the computers at his home.
Later Huskey established the Computer Center at IIT Kanpur before moving back into academia. He retired as Professor Emeritus at the University of California. The Computer History Museum (Mountain View, California, U.S.) named Huskey a Museum Fellow. This was
"for his seminal work on early and important computing systems and a lifetime of service to computer education."
On hearing of Harold Huskey's death, Dag Spicer, who works at the U.S. Computer History Museum, told the New York Times
: "Harry basically lived through and participated in the entire span of the history of electronic computing."