Friday, June 26, 2009

computers: 1950-1960

ERA 1101 drum memory

  • Engineering Research Associates of Minneapolis built the ERA 1101, the first commercially produced computer; the company´s first customer was the U.S. Navy. It held 1 million bits on its magnetic drum, the earliest magnetic storage devices. Drums registered information as magnetic pulses in tracks around a metal cylinder. Read/write heads both recorded and recovered the data. Drums eventually stored as many as 4,000 words and retrieved any one of them in as little as five-thousandths of a second.

  • The National Bureau of Standards constructed the SEAC (Standards Eastern Automatic Computer) in Washington as a laboratory for testing components and systems for setting computer standards. The SEAC was the first computer to use all-diode logic, a technology more reliable than vacuum tubes, and the first stored-program computer completed in the United States. Magnetic tape in the external storage units (shown on the right of this photo) stored programming information, coded subroutines, numerical data, and output.

  • The National Bureau of Standards completed its SWAC (Standards Western Automatic Computer) at the Institute for Numerical Analysis in Los Angeles. Rather than testing components like its companion, the SEAC, the SWAC had an objective of computing using already-developed technology.
Pilot ACE

  • Alan Turing´s philosophy directed design of Britain´s Pilot ACE at the National Physical Laboratory."We are trying to build a machine to do all kinds of different things simply by programming rather than by the addition of extra apparatus," Turing said at a symposium on large-scale digital calculating machinery in 1947 in Cambridge, Mass.
Start of project:1948
Add time:1.8 microseconds
Memory size:352 32-digit words
Memory type:delay lines
Technology:800 vacuum tubes
Floor space:12 square feet
Project leader:J. H. Wilkinson
MIT Whirlwind

  • MIT´s Whirlwind debuted on Edward R. Murrow´s "See It Now" television series. Project director Jay Forrester described the computer as a "reliable operating system," running 35 hours a week at 90-percent utility using an electrostatic tube memory.
Start of project:1945
Add time:.05 microseconds
Input/output:cathode ray tube, paper tape, magnetic tape
Memory size:2048 16-digit words
Memory type:cathode ray tube, magnetic drum, tape (1953 - core memory)
Technology:4,500 vacuum tubes, 14,800 diodes
Floor space:3,100 square feet
Project leaders:Jay Forrester and Robert Everett

  • England´s first commercial computer, the Lyons Electronic Office, solved clerical problems. The president of Lyons Tea Co. had the computer, modeled after the EDSAC, built to solve the problem of daily scheduling production and delivery of cakes to the Lyons tea shops. After the success of the first LEO, Lyons went into business manufacturing computers to meet the growing need for data processing systems.

  • The UNIVAC I delivered to the U.S. Census Bureau was the first commercial computer to attract widespread public attention. Although manufactured by Remington Rand, the machine often was mistakenly referred to as the "IBM UNIVAC." Remington Rand eventually sold 46 machines at more than $1 million each.F.O.B. factory $750,000 plus $185,000 for a high speed printer.
Speed:1,905 operations per second
Input/output:magnetic tape, unityper, printer
Memory size:1,000 12-digit words in delay lines
Memory type:delay lines, magnetic tape
Technology:serial vacuum tubes, delay lines, magnetic tape
Floor space:943 cubic feet
Cost:F.O.B. factory $750,000 plus $185,000 for a high speed printer
Project leaders:J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly
von Neumann´s IAS

  • John von Neumann´s IAS computer became operational at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, N.J. Contract obliged the builders to share their designs with other research institutes. This resulted in a number of clones: the MANIAC at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, the ILLIAC at the University of Illinois, the Johnniac at Rand Corp., the SILLIAC in Australia, and others.
IBM 701

  • IBM shipped its first electronic computer, the 701. During three years of production, IBM sold 19 machines to research laboratories, aircraft companies, and the federal government.
IBM 650

  • The IBM 650 magnetic drum calculator established itself as the first mass-produced computer, with the company selling 450 in one year. Spinning at 12,500 rpm, the 650´s magnetic data-storage drum allowed much faster access to stored material than drum memory machines.

  • MIT researchers built the TX-0, the first general-purpose, programmable computer built with transistors. For easy replacement, designers placed each transistor circuit inside a "bottle," similar to a vacuum tube. Constructed at MIT´s Lincoln Laboratory, the TX-0 moved to the MIT Research Laboratory of Electronics, where it hosted some early imaginative tests of programming, including a Western movie shown on TV, 3-D tic-tac-toe, and a maze in which mouse found martinis and became increasingly inebriated.
SAGE operator station

  • SAGE — Semi-Automatic Ground Environment — linked hundreds of radar stations in the United States and Canada in the first large-scale computer communications network. An operator directed actions by touching a light gun to the screen.

The air defense system operated on the AN/FSQ-7 computer (known as Whirlwind II during its development at MIT) as its central computer. Each computer used a full megawatt of power to drive its 55,000 vacuum tubes, 175,000 diodes and 13,000 transistors.
  • Japan´s NEC built the country´s first electronic computer, the NEAC 1101.

  • IBM´s 7000 series mainframes were the company´s first transistorized computers. At the top of the line of computers — all of which emerged significantly faster and more dependable than vacuum tube machines — sat the 7030, also known as the "Stretch." Nine of the computers, which featured a 64-bit word and other innovations, were sold to national laboratories and other scientific users. L. R. Johnson first used the term "architecture" in describing the Stretch.

  • The precursor to the minicomputer, DEC´s PDP-1 sold for $120,000. One of 50 built, the average PDP-1 included with a cathode ray tube graphic display, needed no air conditioning and required only one operator. It´s large scope intrigued early hackers at MIT, who wrote the first computerized video game, SpaceWar!, for it. The SpaceWar! creators then used the game as a standard demonstration on all 50 computers.

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