One of the first true computers is finally on public display

ENIAC circa 1946

Seeing ENIAC, one of the first true programmable computers, has been tricky; the giant mainframe was partly restored in 2007, but it was only visible in an office building. At last, though, you now have a (relatively) easy way to witness this piece of computing history first-hand. The US Army’s Field Artillery Museum in Fort Sill, Oklahoma recently put several of ENIAC’s revived panels on public display, giving you a chance to see a significant chunk of the very early mainframe in person.

The museum piece won’t replicate the 1945 system in its full glory (it’s missing most of the 40 original panels), but it’ll give you a sense of what you missed. Restoration gurus Dan and Jonathan Gleason linked hundreds of bulbs to a motion sensor to make it look active when you wander by. As it stands, ENIAC wasn’t designed to put on a show even when it was complete — it was mostly used for military research, like validating the design of the first hydrogen bomb. Still, it’s not often that you get to see one of the world’s most important computers without jumping through hoops.

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