Ware’s contributions helped create the working architecture of the modern digital computer.
Willis Ware accepted a position with the Institute for Advanced Study’s Electronic Computer Project (ECP) on May 13, 1946, and began work on June 1. He was the fourth engineer hired to work on the project—and, at his death on November 22, 2013, was the last survivor of the original engineering team. The working architecture of the modern digital computer—gates, timers, shift registers, all the elements we take entirely for granted including how to implement an adder, not to mention random-access memory and the registers that keep track of it—has Willis Ware’s fingerprints all over it.
He and his friend and colleague James Pomerene were hired by chief engineer Julian Bigelow from Hazeltine Electronics in Little Neck, Long Island, where they had worked on IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) radar systems during World War II. IFF was an implementation, using analogue components, of high-speed digital coding, and was the opposite of encryption. Instead of trying to encode a message that was as difficult as possible to understand when intercepted, the goal of IFF was to transmit a code that would be as difficult as possible to misunderstand. The ability to reliably manipulate high-speed pulses of electrons that Ware and colleagues had developed for IFF was perhaps the greatest technical contribution that anyone brought to the problem of physically realizing, at megacycle speed, what John von Neumann had set out to do, in theory, in late 1945 and early 1946.READ MORE>