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Issue No.04 - October-December (2004 vol.26)
pp: 20-34
George T. Gray , Georgia Technology Authority
Ronald Q. Smith , Unisys Corporation
Sperry Rand Corporation was formed in 1955 by the merger of Remington Rand and Sperry Gyroscope. Remington Rand was an early entrant in the computer industry through its acquisitions of Engineering Research Associates and Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation. This article describes the major vacuum tube computers and the supporting software developed by Sperry Rand during the later 1950s.
core memory, UNIVAC, magnetic amplifiers, index registers, drum memory, magnetic tape, buffered input/output, assemblers, compilers
George T. Gray, Ronald Q. Smith, "Sperry Rand's First Generation Computers, 1955-1960: Hardware and Software", IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol.26, no. 4, pp. 20-34, October-December 2004, doi:10.1109/MAHC.2004.34
1. C.J. Bashe et al., IBM's Early Computers, MIT Press, 1986, pp. 232-239; E. Pugh, Memories That Shaped an Industry, MIT Press, 1984.
2. J.W. Cortada, Before the Computer, Princeton Univ. Press, 1993, pp. 114, 116, 118, 226; M. Campbell-Kelly, ICL: A Business and Technical History,Clarendon Press, 1989, p. 69.
3. E.W. Pugh, Building IBM: Shaping an Industry and Its Technology, MIT Press, pp. 152-155, 167-178.
4. The New York Times,29 Apr. 1955, p. 31; "Sperry Rand: Still Merging,"Fortune, Mar. 1960.
5. Erwin Tomash interview (OH 60) conducted by A.L. Norberg, 15 May 1983, Charles Babbage Inst., Univ. of Minnesota (hereafter referred to as CBI); J.C. Worthy,William C. Norris: Portrait of a Maverick, Ballinger, 1987, p. 29. Arnold Cohen Interview (OH 58) conducted by J. Ross, 1983, CBI. The Philadelphia— St. Paul rivalry is also discussed in chapters 1–8 of D.E. Lundstrom, A Few Good Men from Univac,MIT Press, 1987.
6. The following items are in the Sperry Univac Archives at the Hagley Library, Wilmington, Delaware. Information on the Civil Aeronautics computer is taken from a draft chapter by G. Mellen on noncommercial systems for a planned history of Sperry Univac, box 387. The Logistics computer is described in J. Kruskal, and R. Rossheim,J.J. Wolf,"A Programmer's Description of the Logistics Computer," Oct. 1952, box 288. Discussions of the Speed Tally system are in an undated promotional brochure titled ERA Division, box 345, and a paper by L. Harr, "The Univac File Computer in Historical Perspective," box 381.
7. "Univac File Computer System Specifications," 1957, box 271; draft chapter by G.A. Champine on ERA computers for a planned history of Sperry Univac, box 384. Both are in the Sperry Univac Archives. The experience of Clark Equipment Company is described in T.R. Lyon, "The Univac File Computer Applied to General Accounting Functions," Proc. 3rd Ann. Computer Applications Symp.: October 9-10, 1956, Illinois Inst. of Technology, 1956, pp. 74-79.
8. The New York Times,3 Nov. 1958, p. 39, and 24 Oct. 1959, p. 25; R.T. McAvoy, "A Central Computer Installation as Part of an Air-Line Reservations System," Proc. 4th Ann. Computer Applications Symp.: October 24-25, 1957, Illinois Inst. of Technology, 1958, pp. 13-17; M.H. Weik, A Third Survey of Domestic Electronic Digital Computer Systems, Ballistic Research Laboratory, Aberdeen, Md., 1961, pp. 932-957. Draft chapter by L. Walker on real-time systems for a planned history of Sperry Univac, box 387, Sperry Univac Archives; also I. Kobayashi, "An Epithodic History of Business Data Processing in Japan," 1st USA–Japan Computer Conf. Proc., AFIPS, 1972, pp. 705-708.
9. B.G. Katz and A. Phillips, "The Computer Industry," Government and Technical Progress: A Cross Industry Analysis, R.R. Nelson, ed., Pergamon Press, 1972, pp. 190-196.
10. S. Rosen, "Electronic Computers: A Historical Survey," Computing Surveys, 1 Mar. 1969, and H. Lukoff, From Dits to Bits: A Personal History of the Electronic Computer, Robotics Press, 1979.
11. H. Lukoff, From Dits to Bits, p. 139; also S. Rosen, "Electronic Computers: A Historical Survey," p. 19. The Sperry Rand report is "Report on Univac Calculating Tabulator Product Line," prepared by J.R. Stovall Jr. for T. Fry, 30 June 1957, box 268, Sperry Univac Archives.
12. Univac Solid State 90 General Description, technical manual, 1960, and Univac Solid State 90 Magnetic Tape System, technical manual, 1959.
13. M. Weik, Third Survey, pp. 962-971; Univac Solid State II, box 346, Sperry Univac Archives.
14. A full discussion of the development problems of the Univac II is in D.E. Lundstrom,A Few Good Men from Univac, pp. 1-38; for the description of the last Univac II, see A. Dahl, "The Last of the First," Datamation, June 1978, pp. 145-149.
15. Descriptions of the 1105 are in Univac 1105 General Description, technical manual, box 271, Sperry Univac Archives and R.J. Petschauer, "History and Evolution of 1100/2200 Mainframe Technology," USE Conf. Proc., 1990, pp. 1251-1252. Discussion of its proposed use at the Census Bureau is in D.H. Heisner and D.P. Armstrong, "Data Processing Tasks for the 1960 Census," Proc. 4th Ann. Computer Applications Symp.: October 24-25, 1957, Illinois Inst. of Technology, 1958, pp. 29-33.
16. M. Weik, Third Survey, pp. 918-928.
17. G. Murray Hopper, "Compiling Routines,"31 Dec. 1953, internal document, Sperry Univac Archives, box 265.
18. J.E. Sammet, Programming Languages: History and Fundamentals Prentice-Hall, 1969; also, J. Backus, "The History of Fortran I, II, and III," IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 20, Oct.-Dec. 1998, pp. 68-78.
19. Univac Math-Matic Programming System, technical manual, 1958, box 268, Sperry Univac Archives.
20. F. WayIII, "Current Developments in Computer Programming Techniques," Proc. 5th Ann. Computer Applications Symp., Illinois Inst. of Technology, 1959, p. 130.
21. "Report on B-0 Compiler System,"19 Feb. 1957, box 268, Sperry Univac Archives.
22. J. Sammet, Programming Languages, p. 324; J.L. Jones, "A Cobol Processor for the Univac 1105," Proc. 1960 Computer Applications Symp., Macmillan, 1961, pp. 28-31.
23. Univac conference held at the Smithsonian Institution, 17-18 May 1990. The transcript is available as OH 200 from CBI.
24. F.M. Fisher, J.W. McKie, and R.B. Mancke, IBM and the U.S. Data Processing Industry: An Economic History, Praeger, 1983, pp. 39-40.
25. R.E. McDonald Interview (OH 57) conducted by J. Ross, 4 May 1983, CBI.
26. M. Weik, Third Survey.
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