Electronic computers in their first decade — 1944-1953 — quickly earned a reputation for being large immobile beasts. Edmund Berkeley cemented the term "Giant Brains" in his landmark 1949 book of the same name, and it stuck like a broken spindle on a hulking tape drive. Corporations, government agencies, and universities all contributed technical advancements to systems that remained caged in clean, secure, air-conditioned rooms.

In the beginning, computers only moved when manufacturers delivered systems to customers. The first fully electronic computer, Britain's code-breaking Colossus, moved by truck from its build location at northwest London suburb Dollis Hill to its installation at Bletchley Park in January 1944. Engineers reassembled it in time to decipher German messages ahead of D-Day. The second all-electronic computer, which unlike Colossus was a general-purpose machine, was ENIAC (Electronic Numeric Integrator and Computer) built by the University of Pennsylvania Moore School of Electrical Engineering. Penn opened an exterior wall so a Philadelphia hauling company could move ENIAC to the Army's Aberdeen (Maryland) Proving Ground. The moving and setup bills were around $100,000.

Electromechanical computers — those not fully electronic because they had moving parts such as relays and solenoids — were just as unwieldy. Early in 1944, IBM disassembled its Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator in Endicott, New York, and trucked it to Harvard University where it took the name Mark-1. Most of the computer is still on display there today. German engineer Konrad Zuse also used a truck in 1945 to flee Berlin for the relative safety of Oberjoch, a small Bavarian village near the Austrian border, bringing along his Z4 relay computer and convincing checkpoint guards that it was military equipment for missile control.

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