Finding aid for the Records of the Electronic Computer Project (ECP)

Summary Information

Repository
Shelby White and Leon Levy Archives Center, Institute for Advanced Study, Historical Studies-Social Science Library, Einstein Drive, Princeton, NJ 08540
Creator
Electronic Computer Project.
Title
Records of the Electronic Computer Project (ECP)
ID
ECP
Date [inclusive]
1940-1967
Date [bulk]
Bulk, 1945-1955
Extent
7.0 linear feet (12 document boxes and 3 cubic boxes)
Language
English
Language of Materials note
The collection contains material primarily in English, but there is a lecture in French and a paper in German.
Abstract
The Electronic Computer Project, led by John von Neumann, was based at the Institute for Advanced Study from 1945 to 1960. The records of the ECP consist of correspondence, memos, reports, patents, contracts, operational guides, blueprints, punch cards, wiring drawings, diagrams, and logbooks.

Preferred Citation note

The suggested citation for the material is "[item], Records of the ECP, Box [box number], From the Shelby White and Leon Levy Archives Center, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ, USA."

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Biographical/Historical note

In 1933, John von Neumann became a Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) in the School of Mathematics. By the mid-1940s, Prof. von Neumann began concentrating on computing work and he was trying to raise support and secure space for building an "electronic computing machine." Prof. von Neumann had to obtain permission from IAS to build something on premises because its commitment had been, and still is, firmly planted in the theoretical. Also, monetary support for the Electronic Computer Project (ECP) had to be found. While RCA Corporation was very involved in the beginning stages of the ECP, they did not contribute financially. International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) was involved in other aspects, though like RCA, was not financially supportive. While IAS certainly funded some of the Project with several monetary donations, staff and housing for the Computer, government agencies such as the U.S. Atomic Energy Committee (AEC), United States Office of Naval Research (ONR), and various branches of the United States Army, provided the majority of financial support for the Project.

The Project was undertaken as a part of the School of Mathematics at the Institute for Advanced Study. It was begun on the IAS campus in 1945 and in January 1952 culminated with the completion of a machine. The Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) machine built at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering at University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia was a precursor to the Institute Computer, as was the Electronic Discrete Variable Arithmetic Computer (EDVAC). Prof. von Neumann contributed much to the design of EDVAC. Herman H. Goldstine, one of the Engineers on the team that constructed the ENIAC, eventually came to the Institute to help Prof. von Neumann. Some of the principal Engineers on the Project were Julian Bigelow, Gerald Estrin, Willis Ware, James Pomerene, Sung Yuen Wong, Norman Phillips, Ralph Slutz and Hans J. Maehly.

Arthur Burks, Goldstine and von Neumann drafted the first version of “Preliminary Discussion of the Logical Design of an Electronic Computing Instrument” in June 1946 and multiple subsequent reports were written, many of which are represented here in the collection. While the Institute machine was not formally dedicated until 1952, calculations had been taking place on it since the summer of 1951. The computer was fully functional until 1960, though it was primarily used by Princeton University towards the end, and was eventually deposited in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History where it remains today.

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Scope and Contents note

The Records of the Electronic Computer Project consists of correspondence, memos, reports, patents, contracts, operational guides, blueprints, punch cards, wiring drawings and diagrams that pertain to the ECP, computer science and some of the Engineers on the project. There are logbooks of meteorological studies done on the Institute Computer and other logbooks that contain memory notes, engineering and general arithmetic logs for the Computer. There is one legal-sized folder of ECP employee agreements. The larger maps & blueprints were separated and placed in Map Box #1 with memos to files.

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Arrangement note

Original order of the material in the collection was maintained, with the exception of obvious misfiling.

The collection consists of 2 series: Series I - Correspondence, Reports & Papers (Boxes 1-10) - 1940-1967 Series II - Log Books (Boxes 11-15) - 1950-1958

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Administrative Information

Conditions Governing Access note

The Records of the Electronic Computer Project (ECP) collection is open for research, without restrictions under the Institute for Advanced Study Archives thirty-year policy.

Conditions Governing Use note

Photocopying from the material will be done for a copy fee from the Archives staff. Researchers are responsible for obtaining copyright permission to use the material from the collection for publication.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

The Records of the Electronic Computer Project (ECP) were originally taken from the ECP building, moved to another storage area, and eventually deposited in the Archives in the mid-1980s. These boxes had not been processed for many years. They represent a portion of material that is left from the one time an actual product was built on the premises of the Institute campus: the Institute Computer. Once processed, this collection fit into 12 document boxes mostly with correspondence and reports, and 3 cubic boxes that contain various logbooks. After processing, the collection was cataloged in the Horizon database under #3923-#4018.

Processing Information note

The collection was processed by Lisa R. Coats. Processing and cataloging were completed by May 2003. The processing included some cleaning, removal of rusty fasteners, placing all documents in acid-free folders, relabeling the files, removing larger maps and blueprints to put in a map box, and reboxing into acid-free document boxes or cubic boxes. The material was then cataloged in the Horizon database.

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Related Materials

Related Archival Materials note

There is a related collection that appears to have been from the ECP Library, mostly of bulletins, reports in binders and pamphlets many of which are stamped "ECP Library." This collection has been entitled Records of the Electronic Computer Project (West Building Storage) to distinguish the two sets, though they likely came from the same location (the ECP building), possibly even at the same time, but got separated somehow. There are also samples of punch key cards in the last couple of boxes of this collection that were not likely in the library. It is possible that some of the material was from John von Neumann's office. This collection consists of 11 document boxes that were processed, cataloged (#-4021-#4035, #5082-#5093, and #5096-#5104) and is located directly after the primary ECP collection.

There is also material from the Director’s Office that has significant correspondence related to the ECP. These boxes were processed, cataloged and are located next to the two other ECP related collections in the Archives.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • School of Mathematics.
  • U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.
  • United States. Army. Ordnance Dept..
  • United States. Office of Naval Research.
  • International Business Machines Corporation.
  • Los Alamos National Laboratory.
  • RCA Corporation.
  • U.S. Army Ballistic Research Laboratory.
  • Philadelphia Ordnance District.

Personal Name(s)

  • Bargmann, V. (Valentine), 1908-
  • Bargmann, Sonja
  • Estrin, Gerald
  • Goldstine, Herman Heine, 1913-
  • Delsasso, Louis A.
  • Birkhoff, Garrett, 1911-1996
  • Bigelow, Julian Himely
  • Barricelli, Nils Aall, 1912-
  • Oppenheimer, J. Robert, 1904-1967
  • Panagos, Peter
  • Pomerene, James H.
  • Rees, Mina Spiegel, 1902-
  • Halmos, Paul R. (Paul Richard), 1916-2006
  • Leutert, W. W.
  • Maehly, Hans J.
  • Minot, Morgan C., Jr.
  • Slutz, Ralph Jeffery, 1917-
  • Shuman, Fred
  • Acton, Forman S.
  • Von Neumann, John, 1903-1957
  • Aydelotte, Frank, 1880-1956
  • Ware, Willis H.
  • Wigner, Eugene Paul, 1902-1995
  • Wong, Sung Yuen
  • Dirac, P. A. M. (Paul Adrien Maurice), 1902-1984
  • Elsasser, Walter M.
  • Tuckerman, Bryant, 1915-2002
  • Veblen, Oswald, 1880-1960

Subject(s)

  • Physics
  • Machine theory
  • Logic machines
  • Logic, Symbolic and mathematical
  • Computers
  • Computer logic
  • Ballistics

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Other Finding Aids note

A list of staff and scholars associated with the ECP is available online.

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Bibliography

Aspray, William. John von Neumann and the Origins of Modern Computing. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1990.

Bigelow, Julian. "Computer Development at the Institute for Advanced Study", in A History of Computing in the Twentieth Century by N. Metropolis, J. Howlett and Gian-Carlo Rota. Academic Press, Inc., 1980: 291-310.

Dyson, George B. Darwin Among the Machines: the Evolution of Global Intelligence. Cambridge: Perseus, 1997.

Goldstine, Herman H. The Computer from Pascal to von Neumann. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1972.

Oppenheimer, J. Robert. Institute for Advanced Study, "Report of the Director, 1948-1953."

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Collection Inventory

Series I: Correspondence, Reports & Papers (10 document boxes)

Scope and Contents note

This section is 10 boxes of material including correspondence, notes, memos, reports, minutes, drawings for reports and papers on subjects related to computer science. Some of the larger maps and blueprints have been removed from the files they originally came in and transferred to Map Box #1. Notes to the file were placed in the files and in the map folders.

  Box Folder

Ballistic Research Laboratories correspondence 1947-1956

1 1

Computer patents correspondence 1945-1949

1 2

Computer development, IAS description of computer 1948

1 3

Computer patents, Bigelow correspondence 1948-1952

1 4

Computer utilization 1956-1957

1 5

Contract N-7-onr-388 (01), correspondence 1946-1955

1 6

Steering committee meeting minutes and notes 1950-1954

1 7

Computer patents and note cards 1946-1967

1 8

Contract DA-36-034-ORD-1646 1954

1 8a

Contract DA-36-034-ORD-1646 1954-1956

1 8b

Contract N7onr-388 (01) 1947-1953

1 8c

Contract N7onr-379 (01) 1949

1 8d

Contract Nonr-1358 (03) 1955-1957

1 8e

Contract Nonr-1358 (04) 1956-1957

1 8f

Distribution lists, correspondence and reports 1947-1954

2 9

Distribution card files 1947-1951

16  

Distribution lists, correspondence and reports 1955-1963

2 10

New drawing, not for report 1953

2 11

Regulator drawings undated

2 12

"Move" generated data and drawings July-Oct. 1953

2 13

Tube checker and Sung Yuen Wong's tube notes 1951-1954

2 14

Codes 1953-1957

2 15

IBM, notes and drawings (5-29, 8-18 and 1-18) 1952

2 16

IBM, extracts 1954

2 17

Final drawings April 29, 1952 and February 6, 1957

2 18

Gate adjustment and testing May 12-13, 1955

2 19

IBM Wiring Diagram 1948-1952

2 20

Carry delay unit, notes and drawings 1953

2 21

Test tube wiring, notes and drawings 1955

2 22

Spill-addition left shift, notes and drawings 1956

2 23

M/C wiring (power), notes and drawings 1953-1954

2 24

Williams storage tubes, notes, drawings and report 1950-1953

2 25

Miscellaneous drawings 1955-1956

2 26

Office, Chief of Ordnance, correspondence 1947-1951

3 27

Office of Naval Research, correspondence 1946-1957

3 28

Surveys on computing machines 1952-1955

3 29

Problems run on IAS machine 1952-1955

3 30

Weizmann Institute of Science, Magnetic Drum 1956-1957

3 31

Navy progress reports, N-7-onr-388, T.O.I. November 1949-April 1955

3 32

Navy progress reports, Nonr 1358 (03) and (04) July 1955-May/June 1957

3 33

Navy progress reports, N-6-ori-139, T.O.I. July 1, 1946-September 30, 1952

contents available online in PDF format

3 34

Progress reports, DA-36-ORD-1646 and Nonr 1358 1956

3 35

Progress reports, DA-36-ORD-1646 and Nonr 1358 July 1954-December 1955

3 36

Army progress reports, DA-36-034-ORD-1330-RD, project number TB3-0538 July 1953-June 1954

4 37

Army progress reports, DA-36-034-ORD-1023-RD July 1952-June 1953

4 38

Army progress reports, DA-36-034-ORD-19 July 1950-June 1952

4 39

Army progress reports, W-36-034-ORD-7481 July 1947-June 1950

4 40

Technical report 56-01 January 1956

4 41

Technical report 56-03 June 1956

4 42

Technical report 55-02 August 1955

4 43

Technical report 55-01 July 1955

4 44

Nils Aall Barricelli, "Experiments on Bionumeric Evolution Executed by the Computer at Princeton, NJ" August 1953

4 45

Bargmann, Montgomery, von Neumann, "Solution of Linear Systems of High Order" October 25, 1946

4 46

Walter M. Elsasser, "Boundary-value Problems of Hydromagnetics" September 1950

4 47

Walter M. Elsasser, "Causes of Motion in the Earth's Core" 1949

4 48

Walter M. Elsasser, "Magnetic Field Energy of Large Conducting Fluids" 1949

4 49

Gerald Estrin, "The Electronic Computer at the Institute for Advanced Study, Automatic Computing Machinery" April 1953

5 50

Fred Shuman, "A Method of Interpolating Heights Between Isobaric Levels" April 1952

5 51

Philip D. Thompson, "A Class of Permanent Waves in Two Dimensional Flow of Homogeneous Fluids" 1949?

5 52

"Preliminary Discussion of the Logical Design of an Electronic Computing Instrument" (Pomerene's copy) June 1946

5 53

"Interim Progress Report on the Physical Realization of an Electronic Computing Instrument" (Library copy) January 1947

5 54

"Interim Progress Report on the Physical Realization of an Electronic Computing Instrument" (Marked copy) January 1947

5 55

"Interim Progress Report on the Physical Realization of an Electronic Computing Instrument" (copy 3) January 1947

5 56

"Second Interim Progress Report on the Physical Realization of an Electronic Computing Instrument" (Library copy) July 1947

6 57

"Second Interim Progress Report on the Physical Realization of an Electronic Computing Instrument" (Marked copy) July 1947

6 58

"Second Interim Progress Report on the Physical Realization of an Electronic Computing Instrument" (copy 3) July 1947

6 59

"Planning and Coding of Problems," part II, volume I 1947-1948

6 60

"Planning and Coding of Problems," part II, volume II 1948

6 61

"Planning and Coding of Problems," part II, volume III 1948

6 62

"Numerical Inverting of Matrices of High Order," I and II 1947, 1951

7 63

"First Progress Report on a Multi-Channel Magnetic Drum Inner Memory for Use in Electronic Digital Computing Instruments" July 1, 1948

7 64

"Third Interim Progress Report on the Physical Realization of an Electronic Computing Instrument" January 1, 1948

7 65

"Fourth Interim Progress Report on the Physical Realization of an Electronic Computing Instrument" (Library copy) July 1, 1948

7 66

"Fourth Interim Progress Report on the Physical Realization of an Electronic Computing Instrument" (Project copy) July 1, 1948

7 67

"Fourth Interim Progress Report on the Physical Realization of an Electronic Computing Instrument" (Master copy) July 1, 1948

7 68

"Fourth Interim Progress Report on the Physical Realization of an Electronic Computing Instrument" (Captioned and numbered pictures and figures) July 1, 1948

7 69

"Fifth Interim Progress Report on the Physical Realization of an Electronic Computing Instrument" January 1, 1949

8 70

"Sixth Interim Progress Report on the Physical Realization of an Electronic Computing Instrument" September 1951

8 71

Final Report on Contract No. DA-36-034-ORD-1023 (Parts I and II, copy) April 1954

8 72

Final Report on Contract No. DA-36-034-ORD-1023 (Part I, originals) April 1954

8 73

Final Report on Contract No. DA-36-034-ORD-1023 (Part II, originals) April 1954

8 74

Final Report on Contract No. DA-36-034-ORD-1023 (Part II, drawings only) (larger drawings removed and placed in Map Box #1) April 1954

8 75

Final Report on Contract No. DA-36-034-ORD-1330 December 1954

9 76

Final Report on Contract No. DA-36-034-ORD-1646 (Part I) July 1954-December 1956

9 77

Final Report on Contract No. DA-36-034-ORD-1646 (Part II) July 1956-December 1956

9 78

Final Report on Contract No. Nonr 1358 (03) July 1957

9 79

Final Report on Contract No. Nonr 1358 (04) August 1957

9 80

Meetings at IAS and RCA (Originals) 1945

9 81

Meetings at IAS and RCA (Copy) 1945

9 82

Appendix to bibliographies (Offprints from John von Neumann's files) 1940-1948

10 83

Calculation to "e" to "a" large number of places (parts of a paper and notes from John von Neumann's files) undated

10 84

Functional Operators, Comments (handwritten notes) undated

10 85

"Hilbert Space" Paris lecture, by John von Neumann in French May 6, 1935

10 86

"Invariant Measures" IAS lecture, Notes by Paul R. Halmos (pp. 1-115) 1940-1941

10 87

"Invariant Measures" IAS lecture, Notes by Paul R. Halmos (pp. 116-228, end) 1940-1941

10 88

Confidential memo to Oppenheimer October 23, 1944

10 89

"Eine Spektraltheorie fur allgemeine Operatoren eines unitaren Raumes" (Paper by John von Neumann in German) undated

10 90

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Series II: Logbooks (5 document boxes)

Scope and Contents note

These five boxes, #11-15, contain various logbooks and notebooks from the ECP. Some are for meteorological studies done and others are memory notes, engineering and general arithmetic logs. There is one legal-sized folder of employee agreements in box #13, placed there because of size and interdeterminate original location.

  Box

Meteorology logbooks #1-8 and #10. No logbook #9 (handwritten in marble composition notebooks) 1951-1952

11

Memory notes and three other miscellaneous logbooks (handwritten in marble composition notebooks) 1952

12

One folder of employment agreements 1950-1954

13

Eleven logbooks: engineering, meteorological, general arithmetic 1952-1955

13

Twenty operating logbooks May 1954-December 1955

14

Thirty-one operating logbooks January 1956-July 1958

15

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