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Against the Current: The Sperry-Burroughs Merger and the Unisys Struggle to Survive 1980-2001
April-June 2007 (vol. 29 no. 2)
pp. 3-17
George T. Gray, Georgia Technology Authority
Ronald Q. Smith, Unisys Corporation
Competitors of IBM at the beginning of the 1980s, Sperry and Burroughs found it increasingly difficult to match IBM's market power and depth of product line. The two companies merged to form Unisys in 1986. Burdened by heavy debt, battered by the 1991 recession, Unisys persisted and went on to develop new business strategies to meet the needs of server-based computing.

1. G. Bylinski, "The Game Has Changed in Big Computers," Fortune, 25 Jan. 1982; P. Passell, "Why the Best Doesn't Always Win, "The New York Times Magazine, 5 May 1996, pp. 60–61.
2. B. Wilkins, "Virtual Processor Eases Conversion to Sperry 1100/70," Computerworld, 24 Dec. 1984; p. 17; C.K. Lowrie, "County of Westchester N.Y.," Unisphere, Mar. 1983, pp. 26–30.
3. The details of the design process of the 1100/90, System–11, and 2200/200 are available in R.J. Petschauer, "History and Evolution of 1100/2200 Mainframe Technology," USE Conf. Proceedings , Fall 1990, pp. 1247–1291.
4. "Burroughs 4955 Announced," Datamation, Nov. 1982, p. 184; "Burroughs 7900 Announced," Mar. 1983, p. 216; Burroughs Corporation Annual Report 1984, p. 19.
5. "Burroughs Announces A9," Datamation, 1 Apr. 1984, p. 176; "Burroughs A9 Progress," 15 May 1984, p. 94, "Burroughs Announces A3," 15 Nov. 1984, p. 100; S. Wysocki and J. Bauer, "Burroughs Corp. Prospered during Early 1980s," Unisys World, Feb. 1995, p. 15; E. Rudolph, "Productivity in Computer Application Development," working paper no. 9, Dept. of Management Studies, Univ. of Auckland, 1983.
6. "Intel Chip Shortage," Datamation, 15 Apr. 1984, p. 78; "Intel Chip Troubles," 1 May 1984, p. 47; "Burroughs Introduces New Workstation," 1 July 1984, p. 142; "Convergent Technologies Workstation," 1 Apr. 1985, p. 50; Burroughs Corporation Annual Report 1985, p. 19.
7. Burroughs 1980 Annual Report , p. 1; Burroughs Corporation Annual Report 1985, p. 17; "Burroughs Acquires Memorex," Datamation, June 1982, p. 128; "Memorex Troubles," 15 June 1986, p. 67.
8. E.N. Berg, "Burroughs and Sperry in Talks," The New York Times, 14 June 1985, p. D–1; T.S. Purdum, "Sperry's Strategist: A New Chief Pushes to Keep His Company Independent," 27 Oct. 1985, pp. 3–6; R.J. Cole, "Burroughs Is Seeking Sperry," 6 May 1986, p. D–1; D.E. Sanger, "Burroughs, in Challenge to IBM, to Acquire Sperry for $4.8 Billion," 28 May 1986, p. 1; "Burroughs-Sperry Deal Completed," 17 Sept. 1986, p. D–2; C. Sims, "Burroughs Announces New Company Name," 11 Nov. 1986, p. D–1.
9. R.J. Petschauer, "History and Evolution of 1100/2200 Mainframe Technology," pp. 1282–1285, The IBM Users' Guide to the Open 2200/900, Unisys Corp., 1993; F.V. Guterl, "Twin Mainframes Power Lufthansa's Reservations," Datamation, 1 Oct. 1992, pp. 95–96.
10. Data in the table is drawn from USE Inc. Site Status Report February 1990 and the UNITE Inc. registration list for the 1994 Fall Conference.
11. Unisys Corporation 1989 Annual Report, p. 1; G. Rifkin, "10,000 Jobs to be Cut by Unisys," The New York Times, 24 July 1991, p. D–1; P.B. Carroll, "Unisys to Cut 10,000 Jobs, Reports Loss," The Wall Street Journal, 24 July 1991, p. 15.
12. D. Lampman, "An Update on V Series Migrations," Unisphere, Jan. 1994, pp. 12–15.
13. O. Townsend, "Converting from OS/3 to UNIX," Unisphere, May 1994, pp. 27–29.
14. Unisys Corporation 1991 Annual Report, p. 2; Unisys Corporation 1995 Annual Report, p. 8.
15. The term HMP was originated by either Jim Commander or Gary Zelasko of Unisys. ClearPath HMP Series User Notes Spring 1996, Unisys Corp., 1996.
16. Unisys ES7000, Gartner's DataproPlatforms and Storage, Document Code DPRO–90783, 9 Apr. 2001; "Insurer Goes for Unisys' High-End Windows Machine," Information Week,20 Nov. 2000, p. 32.
17. J. Vijayan, "Unisys Pins Hopes on New Servers," Computerworld, 5 May 2001, p. 11; E. Jensen, "MCP Hardware Update," UNITE Conference Session AS0019, Nov. 2002; E. Jensen, "ClearPath MCP Hardware Update," UNITE Conference Session MCP0044, CD-ROM, UNITE Inc., Sept. 2003.

Index Terms:
Burroughs, ClearPath, Remington Rand, server-based computing, Sperry, Sperry Rand, Sperry-Burroughs merger, Unisys
George T. Gray, Ronald Q. Smith, "Against the Current: The Sperry-Burroughs Merger and the Unisys Struggle to Survive 1980-2001," IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 29, no. 2, pp. 3-17, April-June 2007, doi:10.1109/MAHC.2007.16
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