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Neal Stephenson


Clifford Berry (1918-1963)
Clifford Berry was born on 19 April 1918 in Gladbrook, Iowa. He gained his interest in electrical engineering from his father Fred Berry who owned an electrical appliance and repair store. When aged eleven Berry built his first ham radio under the supervision of his father. The family moved to Marengo, Iowa and Berry continued to excel at school. Fred Berry had always wished his son would attend Iowa State University to study Electrical Engineering, but unfortunately he was shot and killed before he saw his wish come true.

Berry proved to be a good a student at University as he had been at high school, and so upon graduation his professor Harold Anderson had an interesting suggestion for him. Professor Anderson suggested that he assist John Vincent Atanasoff in his computer-machine project. The two men were very similar and got along almost immediately, and with two minds working on the project it progressed at great speed.

By December 1939 they had constructed a working prototype of what became known as the Atanasoff-Berry Computer. They received a grant for $850 from the Iowa State College Research Council in order to construct a full-scale machine. The start of World War II interfered with the project and somehow their patent application went awry and they never received a patent for the Electronic Digital Computer.

It was whilst working for Atanasoff that Berry met Martha Jean Reed, whom he married in May 1942. The couple left Iowa for Pasadena, California where Clifford Berry had been offered a job with Consolidated Engineering Corporation. Whilst working for CEC Berry continued his research work and in 1948 he received his Ph.D. in Physics from Iowa State University.

Clifford Berry died suddenly on October 30, 1963 in New York where he had gone to become Manager of Advanced Development at the Vacuum-Electronics Corporation.

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