Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer

Definition of Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer

The Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer, or EDVAC, refers to an early electronic computer developed in the 1940s. It is notable for being the first computer to utilize stored-program architecture, which allows programs to be stored in memory alongside data. This groundbreaking design laid the foundation for modern computers, enabling them to perform a broad range of tasks with increased flexibility and efficiency.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer” is:ee-lek-TRAH-nihk dihs-KREET VAIR-ee-uh-buhl aw-TOH-muh-tihk kuhm-PYOO-tuhr

Key Takeaways

  1. EDVAC, short for Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer, was one of the earliest electronic computers, designed primarily by J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly in the 1940s as an enhancement to the ENIAC.
  2. The EDVAC used a stored-program concept, which is considered an essential feature of modern computer architecture, enabling it to store both the instructions and data within its memory for later processing.
  3. The design and development of the EDVAC had a significant influence on the advancement of electronic computing technology, paving the way for more sophisticated and efficient computer systems in the future.

Importance of Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer

The technology term Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer (EDVAC) is important because it was one of the earliest electronic computers that pioneered the use of stored-program architecture, which became the foundation for modern computer systems.

Developed in the late 1940s, EDVAC influenced the future of computing by utilizing binary code for performing arithmetic and logical operations, as well as memory for storing both data and instructions.

This enabled more flexible and sophisticated programming, supporting a wide range of applications.

The innovations brought about by EDVAC not only accelerated the development of subsequent computer technologies but also significantly impacted diverse fields like science, engineering, and business, leading to the digital age we experience today.


The Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer (EDVAC) was developed to provide significant advancements in computational power and speed compared to its predecessors. The purpose behind the creation of EDVAC was to facilitate complex problem solving and reduce human efforts in tasks that could be accomplished more efficiently using machines.

Serving as a foundation for modern computing systems, EDVAC became a critical component in various sectors, such as scientific research, military operations, and commercial applications. Its primary use was to solve large-scale mathematical problems and perform massive computations, enabling researchers and professionals to make accurate predictions and derive solutions much faster than before.

EDVAC’s design marked a milestone in the history of computer technology because it adopted the stored-program concept, which allowed programs to be stored in its memory, along with the data being processed. This innovative technique enabled users to modify or update software without the need for physical rewiring – a limitation faced by earlier computers.

With its ability to carry out multiple operations simultaneously and switch seamlessly between programs, EDVAC significantly improved the way computers were used for complex computations. As a result, it played a crucial role in the evolution of later computer technologies and continues to inspire advancements in the field of computing.

Examples of Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer

The Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer (EDVAC) was an early electronic digital computer developed in the late 1940s to perform numerical calculations. It was known for using binary coded decimal (BCD) numbers instead of the decimal system, which made it more accurate and faster than other computers at the time. Here are three real-world examples of the impact of EDVAC technology:

Military and defense applications: EDVAC, like many early computers, was originally developed for military purposes to make calculations related to the construction of artillery equipment, ballistics, and weapons trajectories. Its ability to process large amounts of data accurately and quickly allowed for more efficient design and production of necessary military equipment during the Cold War.

Scientific research: EDVAC was used in various scientific research projects, such as nuclear physics, crystallography, and astronomy. Its high-capacity data processing made it possible to process large amounts of experimental data, enabling researchers to better understand complex systems and phenomena.

Influence on future computer design: EDVAC’s design was highly influential in the development of future computer systems. Its design introduced the stored-program concept, which allowed the computer to store both data and instructions, acting as both memory and process control. This design concept became the basis for the “von Neumann architecture,” which is still the foundation of most modern computers today.

Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer FAQ

1. What is Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer (EDVAC)?

Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer, or EDVAC, is an early electronic computer designed to perform complex calculations. It used stored-program architecture and binary digits for data representation. It was a successor to the ENIAC and played a significant role in modern computer development.

2. Who created EDVAC and when was it first operational?

EDVAC was developed by John von Neumann, J. Presper Eckert, and John W. Mauchly. It was first operational in 1951.

3. How was EDVAC different from its predecessor, ENIAC?

EDVAC used stored-program architecture, which allowed programs to be stored in memory and executed automatically. It used binary digits for data representation, making it more accurate and easier to operate. In contrast, ENIAC used decimal representation and needed to be manually programmed for each new task.

4. What kind of memory did EDVAC have, and what was its capacity?

EDVAC used a mercury delay line memory, which stored data as sound waves in mercury-filled tubes. The memory capacity was 1,024 words, each containing 44 binary digits (bits).

5. What were some of the applications of EDVAC?

EDVAC was primarily used for scientific and military purposes, such as solving complex mathematical problems and designing advanced weaponry. Its design influenced several subsequent computers, including the Manchester Mark 1 and EDSAC.

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