The University of Pennsylvania's Online Computing Magazine

Mar 1996  Volume 12:4

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ENIAC in the news

Recent research by Penn computer historians has uncovered the fact that the ENIAC was one of the first electronic devices to have a conditional branch. Modern computer languages use IF...THEN...ELSE for branching.

The wires that ran around the ENIAC carried two kinds of pulses: number-pulses and control-pulses. The number-pulses represented numbers from zero (no pulses) to nine (nine pulses). The control-pulse was used to trigger the next step of the calculation.

The ENIAC operators found that if they connected a number-pulse wire to the control-pulse input, it could be used to control the execution of the program. Here is how it worked: If the output on the number-pulse wire was a non-zero number (one or more pulses), then it could be used to start another step. But, if the output was zero (no pulses), then the operation would halt.

Some scholars contend that it is the ability to branch that separates a computer from a calculator. Here is another way to say it:

IF a machine has the ability to branch,


it's a computer,


it's just a calculator.

Penn wins Web awards

Three World Wide Web services at Penn, the Penn Web itself, Oncolink, and the African Studies Web, have all been rated among the top 5 percent of all sites on the Internet by Point Survey, a free service that rates and reviews only the best sites on the Web.

PennNet services and support

Data Communications and Computing Services (DCCS) is developing a new set of "official" Web pages that contain information about major PennNet services as well as product information for network software. The new pages are available from the DCCS home page

Penn wins supercomputing award

The National Scalable Cluster Project (NSCP), a collaboration of the Universities of Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Maryland, won the award for "High Performance Data Management and Mining" at the Supercomputing '95 conference last December. Data mining, extracting useful information from extremely large collections of data, is becoming increasingly interesting as many scientific and commercial groups struggle with the increasingly data -intensive needs of modern computing.

Researchers at the three universities linked computers together using special high-speed communication tech niques that form the basis of many plans for new national communications infrastructures. These new techniques, called asynchronous transfer mode or ATM, are the specialty of several researchers at Penn, particularly Jonathan Smith in the Department of Computer & Infor mation Science. Professor Robert Hollebeek's group in Physics specializes in the configuration of large computers or large numbers of computers to simultaneously "mine data." Examples of data mining at Penn include fast, real -time analysis of images (Professor Ruzena Bajcsy), very large linguistics samples (Professor Mark Liberman), and large databases from particle physics (Professor Hollebeek).

The award resulted from a competition called the "High Performance Computing Challenge," which was judged by a national panel of experts. The competition featured groups seeking to outdo each other in comman deering the largest number of processors in a race toward the first demonstration of "teraflop" computing.

Conference on "Networked Information"

Penn will again host a CAUSE-Coalition for Net worked Information conference on "Networked Informa tion" on May 30-31 at the Penn Tower Hotel. For more information:

New Vi-Spy release

To get the latest release of Vi-Spy, version 12.0 release 10.95, bring a blank, unformatted, high-density diskette to the Computing Resource Center, 3732 Locust Walk.