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IAS Computer-Hardware

IAS (Institute for Advanced Studies), and IBM 709, was the first general purpose computer. Developed at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton, this system was the first computer designed as a general purpose system with stored instructions. Von Neumann helped design the system, and most computers of the next 30 years or so were referred to as "Von Neumann machines" because they followed the principles he built into this system.

(John) Von Neumann's IAS computer was optimized for scientific calculation. Completed in 1952 at a cost of several hundred thousand dollars, the IAS used 2,300 miniature vacuum tubes. It was built to do the massive calculations needed in meteorology, astronomy, hydrodynamics, and other fields of science, as well as the computation for designing atomic weapons, including the first hydrogen bomb. (Its first problem, for Los Alamos, took sixty days, twenty-four hours a day, to solve!) Numerical computation turned out to be of great value to many fields where the problems were too complex to be answered simply by solving equations. The existence of the computer -- and therefore of the possibility of carrying out lots of calculations quickly -- opened up new fields to mathematical analysis.