IAS Computer

IAS Computer

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The IAS Computer was named for the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. The computer was built from 1946 to 1951 at the Institute under the direction of John von Neumann, a mathematics professor at both Princeton University and the Institute for Advanced Study. Funds for the computer came from the Institute, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, and several military agencies of the U.S. Government. It cost several hundred thousand dollars. The goal of developing the IAS was to make digital computer designs more practical and efficient.
For further information about the computer, see Willis H. Ware. The History and Development of the Electronic Computer Project at the Institute for Advanced Study (1953). This is available online.
Currently not on view
Object Name
mainframe computer
Date made
von Neumann, John
previous owner
Institute for Advanced Study
von Neumann, John
Institute for Advanced Study
Place Made
United States: New Jersey, Princeton
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
plastic (overall material)
overall: 118 in x 126 in x 33 in; 299.72 cm x 320.04 cm x 83.82 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of Princeton University
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Computers
Computers & Business Machines
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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Please could you tell me if, as I understand, that the IAS was the first electronic computer that used a 5-bit encoding for its numbers? I heard that this was the case, in its 1952 manifestation, but I have not been able to confirm this. Thank you very much.
yes i think you are right. using a grid of numbers (0-31)(0-11111 bin) across, (0-31) down the Princeton machine produced a 1032 grid (32×32) or 1K in modern talk. this grid was 40 bits "deep" which gave a WORD of two 20 bit numbers.
"I have a question, what kind of tecnology use in memory the computer IAS.?"
Originally the IAS was equipped with a type of vacuum tube SRAM made by RCA called a Selectron tube. But RCA had problems and never succeeded in making the 1K bit tubes requested. 512 bit tubes were used instead. Next the IAS changed to using a type of vacuum tube DRAM called a Williams Tube. Basically an off the shelf CRT with random analog deflections for addressing. Finally the IAS changed to magnetic core memory. Not sure if the cores were ferrite or metal tape wound. In this configuration it had the most memory it ever had and the memory was very reliable.

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