Neumann 120: Celebrating a pioneer of computing

Recent advances in software and hardware technologies have revolutionized data-driven research projects such as iToBoS by greatly accelerating the execution of computational tasks.

While this field is still actively progressing today, it is highly valuable to occasionally take a look back at the history of computer science, and comprehend some of the great pillars current and future technologies are built upon.

The year 2023 is the 120th anniversary of the birth of John von Neumann, one of the most outstanding mathematicians of the 20th century, and one of the most influential figures of computing. The anniversary is celebrated all throughout the memorial year with numerous programs and events, organized by the Neumann Society, a professional computer science organization bearing the name of the world-famous Hungarian-American scientist.

Neumann made considerable contributions in the many fields of science he worked in, and computer science is no exception. The principles he laid down in the 1940s, commonly known as Neumann principles [1], fundamentally changed the world of computing, and act as pillars of information technology to this day. The architecture he envisioned serves as the base of an overwhelming portion of modern technological devices, while the ideas he introduced decades ago are still significant today, and presumably will be for many years to come.

The opening event of the memorial year was held at Óbuda University on the Hungarian IT Day, 18th of January 2023. The institute has a faculty named after John von Neumann and is a key collaborative partner of the Neumann Society. The event was attended by more than a hundred people, including both students and professionals.

In his greeting speech, Levente Kovács, rector of Óbuda University highlighted the planned events of the memorial year. György Beck, the president of Neumann Society mentioned that the event was organized on the Hungarian IT Day so that a wide range of professional topics, from the history of IT in Hungary to today’s advancements could be presented at the conference. The participants of the opening event were also greeted by the daughter of John von Neumann, Marina von Neumann Whitman in a video message.

The member of the iToBoS consortium from Hungary, the Institute for Computer Science and Control (SZTAKI) also participated in the event, represented by a talk from research fellow Attila Farkas outlining the evolvement from the Neumann principles to one of today's key methodologies of computing, distributed deep learning. He highlighted that it was John von Neumann who laid down the foundations of parallel program execution, which serve as a basis for modern distributed GPU accelerated computing solutions.

Many methodologies based on the legacy of Neumann contribute to the creation of modern artificial intelligence based systems such as the intelligent diagnostic tool iToBoS aims to develop, by providing effective architectures capable of tackling the significant resource requirements of the process.


[1] Von Neumann, J. (1981). The principles of large-scale computing machines. Annals of the History of Computing, 3(3), 263-273.