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COMPUTERS - SOME HISTORY AND BACKGROUND #5 (month unknown 1915)   

By Darwyn F. Kelley
Computer Historian


In 1960 most conventional business data processing was serial, that is, the data was gathered, stored, and then processed in batches. The application had to be completed before any particular item of information was available for review. Many applications needed to have "Real Time" access, I.E. Inventory, Payroll etc. One of the most pressing application at this time was Airline Reservations, also online banking. As stated before, in the File Computer section of this report, a basic Airline Reservation System was installed.

Late in 1960, Univac announced the first computer to be designed specifically for real-time applications. The Univac 490 Real Time Computer. This new computer could be connected to any telephone or telephone extension in the continental United States. It could also be connected so as to be addressable by any teletype or telegraph system in the U.S.
A single input-output channel could handle as many as 4096 remote points, and one system was installed in 1960 1400 remote points. A much improved UNISET had been developed for this new computer. It included a keyboard allowing the ticket agent to enter the passenger's name and telephone number. Printouts initiated by the computer for reconfirmation or cancellation. The Uniset was equally adaptable for inventory control. 

The Unisaver was specifically designed for use in Savings Bank, branches. The customer's passbook was slipped into the Unisaver. Such information as account number, last balance etc. was then updated.


Real-time data processing was the most important breakthrough in computer technology since the Univac I made automatic data processing available for business purposes. The Univac Real-Time System made it possible for the first time for management to monitor the course of actual events continuously, to compare this course with expected trends, and to correct to meet the up-to-date minute situation.


I feel very fortunate that my career with Remington Rand, which later became Sperry Univac ,spanned the years 1954-1966. Being involved in this amazing transformation from punched card accounting , Unit Record equipment, to electro-mechanical calculators, to Vacuum tube computers, to Solid State Computers and finally to advanced Real-time and Multi-Tasking computers was very exciting.

As a Programmer with Remington Rand/Sperry Rand and than a Senior System Analyst allowed me to be involved with some interesting accounts. I have written this paper outlining Remington Rand's major computer achievements from 1946 -1961. To me this was the most exciting years of this new computer era.

Listed below are some of the Major Univac firsts:
ENIAC First all electronic digital Computer 
UNIVAC I First Commercial Computer
UNIVAC 1103A First Computer to use Core Memory
UNIVAC Solid State First All Solid State Computer to be offered commercially
LARC The World's most powerful scientific system 
UNIVAC 1107 First Thin Film Memory Computer 
UNIVAC 490 First Real-Time Computer
UNIVAC File Computer First Random Access Computer.

If we look back and realize that Eniac was delivered in 1946 and this report encompasses the years -1946-1961, only 15 years, the progress made at that time was almost incredible. There other first not previously mentioned in this report related to Operational Software. Eniac was programmed by the utilization of plug-in cables to control the operations of the computer. Binac was the first internally programmed computer. Univac I was also internally programmed. The method used to program these first computers was the manipulation of bits. (0's and 1's). The terminology for this method of programming was, "machine language coding."


Dr. Grace Hopper a world renowned mathematician, joined the Eckert-Mauchly Corporation in 1949. Her best-known contribution to computing during this period was the invention, in 1953, of the first compiler, the intermediate program that translates English language instructions into the language of the target computer. She did this, she said, because she was "lazy" and hoped that "the programmer may return to being a mathematician." She named this Compiler, FLOWMATIC.
She never again held only one job at a time. She went back and forth among institutions in the military, private industry, business, and academe, and in all these places she was regarded as one of the most incisive strategic "futurists" in the world of computing. Hopper remained associated with Eckert-Mauchly and its successors (Remington-Rand, Sperry-Rand, and Univac) until her official "retirement" in 1971. Her work on compilers and on making machines understand ordinary language instructions led ultimately to the development of the business language COBOL. Hopper's work also foreshadowed or embodied enormous numbers of developments that are still the very bones of digital computing: subroutines, formula translation, relative addressing, the linking loader, code optimization, and symbolic manipulation. At her death, she was an active consultant for Digital.

She was briefly retired from the Naval Reserve in 1966, but was called to active duty the next year to take charge of the Navy's standardization of COBOL and other languages. In December 1983, she was promoted to the rank of commodore in a White House ceremony. Two years later, here rank was raised to rear Admiral, so she became Admiral Hopper. Throughout her life, it was her service to her country of which she was most proud. She died on New Year's Day in 1992 and, appropriately, was buried with full Naval honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

I had the honor of working with Dr. Grace Hopper during my early days with Remington Rand and eventually renewed our acquaintance during a visit to the Pentagon in 1977. At that time she was housed in the pentagon and we worked together obtaining small Univac test computers for her Navy Research Lab. We had many discussions about the old days. She loved to tell the story about how the phrase "Debug" came about. One evening during the compilation of a program the Univac I had a power failure. As the Service Technicians were locating the cause of this power failure they came upon a rather large moth that had got into the circuitry and shorted out the power. Thus there was a bug in the hardware. They needed to "DEBUG" the circuitry! She actually coined the phrase DEBUG. Where would we be without this famous phrase?

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