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Mainframe Computers Mainframe computer is defined by Webster dictionary as a computer with its cabinet and internal circuits also a large fast computer that can handle multiple tasks concurrently1 The second definition is probably more accurately because in the 1940s there were a half-dozen computers designed in clumsy ways using expensive vacuum tube components consuming vast amounts of power which would take up large amounts of floor space No one in those days thought that more than a few dozen such machines would be required in the world This was the era of the mainframe a large expensive central processing unit designed to process one job at a time The computers of the mainframe era cost a million dollars or more each Because they were so expensive they were in a central location one such computer would serve the needs of an entire government agency a large corporation would have a single computer in its main office Mainframes were managed by data-processing professionals-individuals that had grown up with the tab product generation of business machines that were in widespread use in the first half of this century 2 Mainframes dominated the computing world from 1950 through the early 1970s 3 One of the first mainframe computers and probably the most famous was ENIAC The computer ENIAC was produced by a partnership between the US government and the University of Pennsylvania It consisted of 18000 vacuum tubes 70000 resistors and 5 million soldered joints The computer was such a massive piece of machinery that it consumed 160 kilowatts of electrical power enough energy to dim the lights in an entire section of Philadelphia4 It was developed by John Presper Eckert 1919-1995 and John W Mauchly 1907-1980 The mainframe computer was first used by the military during World War II to break codes calculate trajectory and design new weapons5 These tasks would have been to time consuming and tedious for humans
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