Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
June 11, 1999

Atanasoff memorabilia arrives at ISU

by Skip Derra

According to John V. Atanasoff II, the Atanasoff-Berry Computer (ABC) was only about 2 to 3 percent of his father's technical output. Other inventions, Atanasoff said, include the concrete slab house in which he lived, seismic equipment that could detect the detonation of explosives thousands of miles away and popsicle sticks made of paper.

"My father was a person who was very interested in all types of innovation," Atanasoff II said during a June 4 ceremony at which the Atanasoff family donated to ISU papers, memorabilia, medals and other collections that belonged to the inventor.

The collection chronicles the life of a man who not only invented the first electronic digital computer, but several other devices as well. Examples include a binary alphabet (in which letters are represented by 1s and 0s rather than by ABCs); an egg testing device that could grade the quality of eggs; a breadboard testing device for rapid prototyping of electronic circuits; and a concrete-hulled, wind-powered boat.

The donation includes the papers from the court case that proved Atanasoff founded modern computing with the invention of the ABC; several of his patents; and various medals, including the Medal of Technology received from President George Bush in 1990.

Most of the Atanasoff materials will be housed in University Archives, which is part of the special collections department at the ISU Library. For additional information, visit

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