You see "computers" listed in the City Directory here in Ames, IA, for the '30s and '40s. Iowa State was and is a research institution, and somebody needed to do all the calculating for the various statisticians and extension agencies here. But this was the place where a new idea was aborning. In 1939, a physics prof and his grad assistant designed and built the Atanasoff-Berry Computer, since ruled by a Federal court as the first electronic computer. Replica constructed in 1990s You may think, "what about ENIAC?" Well, in 1940, before John Mauchly co-designed ENIAC, he spent a couple of weeks as J.V. Atanasoff's houseguest in his little half brick bungalow on Woodland Avenue in Ames, playing the supplicant scholar and picking J.V.'s brain like the proverbial turkey frame. Thus, decades later, the Federal court case. And why, you may ask, didn't Iowa State patent the thing? Well, it had problems with its punchcard system, and then a little thing called World War 2 intervened, J.V. left Ames for war work, and the head of the Physics Dep't said, in effect, "screw it, we need the tubes." The only working example was torn up for parts.