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3.1.2 First Generation Electronic Computers (1937--1953)     continued...

Regardless of who deserves the credit for the stored program idea, the EDVAC project is significant as an example of the power of interdisciplinary projects that characterize modern computational science. By recognizing that functions, in the form of a sequence of instructions for a computer, can be encoded as numbers, the EDVAC group knew the instructions could be stored in the computer's memory along with numerical data. The notion of using numbers to represent functions was a key step used by Goedel in his incompleteness theorem in 1937, work which von Neumann, as a logician, was quite familiar with. Von Neumann's background in logic, combined with Eckert and Mauchly's electrical engineering skills, formed a very powerful interdisciplinary team.

Software technology during this period was very primitive. The first programs were written out in machine code, i.e. programmers directly wrote down the numbers that corresponded to the instructions they wanted to store in memory. By the 1950s programmers were using a symbolic notation, known as assembly language, then hand--translating the symbolic notation into machine code. Later programs known as assemblers performed the translation task.