Sunday, March 27, 2005

Card-Programmed Electronic Calculator.

John W. Sheldon, Liston Tatum, The IBM Card-Programmed Electronic Calculator(1951):
Tracking a guided missile on a test range now is the only way to make sure of its performance. At one Department of Defense facility this is done by planting batteries of cameras or phototheodolites along a 100-mile course. During its flight, the missile position is recorded by each camera at 100 frames per second, together with the camera training angles. Formerly these thousands of pictures from each of many cameras were turned over to a crew of computers, to determine just what happened. It took 2 weeks to make the calculations for a single flight. Now this is done on the International Business Machines (IBM) Card-Programmed Electronic Calculator in about 8 hours, and the tests can proceed.

The Triple Revolution Memorandum--1964.

Robert Macbride, The Automated State(1967):
The Triple Revolution
The Cybernation Revolution: A new era of production has begun. Its principles of organization are as different from those of the industrial era as those of the industrial era were different from the agricultural. The cybernation revolution has been brought about by the combination of the computer and the automated self-regulating machine. This results in a system of almost unlimited productive capacity which requires progressively less human labor. Cybernation is already reorganizing the economic and social system to meet its own needs.

The Weaponry Revolution: New forms of weaponry have been developed which cannot win wars but which can obliterate civilization. We are recognizing only now that the great weapons have eliminated war as a method for resolving international conflicts. The ever-present threat of total destruction is tempered by the knowledge of the final futility of war. The need of a "warless world" is generally recognized, though achieving it will be a long and frustrating process.

The Human Rights Revolution: A universal demand for full human rights is now clearly evident. It continues to be demonstrated in the civil rights movement within the United States. But this is only the local manifestation of a worldwide movement toward the establishment of social and political regimes in which every individual will feel valued and none will feel rejected on account of his race,(pp. 192-193)

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

ENIAC and the H-Bomb.

Richard Rhodes, Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb(1995):
The first problem assigned to the first working electronic digital computer in the world was the hydrogen bomb. Los Alamos mathematician Nicholas Metropolis (writing in the third person) recalled participating in the breakthrough: In early 1945, as the construction of the ENIAC was nearing completion, von Neumann raised the question with Frankel and Metropolis of using it to perform the very complex calculations involved in hydrogen bomb design. The ENIAC ran a first rough version of the thermonuclear calculations for six weeks in December 1945 and January 1946, (p.251)

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Military Procurement in 1968.

Richard F. Kaufman, "We Must Guard Against Unwarranted Influence by the Military-Industrial Complex." New York Times MagazineJune 22 1969:
Military and military-related spending accounts for about 45 per cent of all Federal expenditures. In fiscal 1968, the total Federal outlays were $178.9 billion. The Defense Department alone spent $77.4 billion. . .The $4 billion program of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and other activities intertwined with the military carry the real level of defense spending considerably higher. . .The largest single item in the military budget--it accounted for $44 billion in 1968--is procurement. . .Last year the 100 largest defense suppliers obtained $26.2 billion in military contracts. . .As for NASA, procurement plays a larger role in its activities than in those of any other Federal agency.

The 1961 Air Force Computer.

Jeffrey Zygmont, Microchip(2003):
As the world's first computer made from integrated circuits, it was a marvel of compression. In an era when computers were unapproachably complex and most often so large they filled rooms, Harvey Cragon's synthetic thinker was about the size of a transistor radio. Its three hundred integrated circuits were stacked sardine-style in columns ten high, with the columns shoehorned five deep and six across into a black metal case. They were simple, first-of-the-genus ICs, each containing only a handful of capacitors, resistors, and transistors. The computer was programmed to perform simple math: addition, subtraction, multiplication. You would tap in a problem using mechanical keys and watch the answer flip up behind a small glass window on the so-called Manual Control Unit--a box that looked to all the world like a chunky cash register, standing separate from the trim, slim computer and more than fifty times larger,(pp. 68-69).


Ernest Braun and Stuart Macdonald,Revolution in Minature(1982):
The 'major invention of the century' occurred at the Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey on 23 December 1947. The transistor, a device which used semiconductor material to amplify or switch an electric signal, was discovered on that day. . .The germanium point contact transistor was in commercial production at Western Electric by 1951 and also in experimental production in some other large companies, such as Raytheon, at this time. . .By April 1952, the junction transistor was in production at Western Electric, though at less than one hundred a month. Sample lots were also available from Raytheon, RCA and General Electric. . .In May of 1954, Texas Instruments announced it had succeeded in making a silicon transistor. . .The silicon transistor, with its capacity to work in much higher temperatures than any germanium transistor, was of much greater interest to the Military. This was to become a highly significant factor,(pp.33,54,55).

Saturday, March 05, 2005

RCA and the 630TS.

Inglis, Behind the Tube(1990):
At the end of World War II, RCA's engineering and production facilities were put into high gear, and in 1946 it introduced the 630TS, which is sometimes described as the Model T of the television industry. (The 6 was the model number, 30 was the number of tubes, and TS meant television and sound.). . .The 630TS clearly put RCA in the lead among televion receiver manufacturers, and RCA surprised the industry in 1947 when, motivated by what it perceived as enlightened self-interest, it made its manufacturing drawings available for free to its competitors. Most of the other companies were cynical about RCA's motives, but RCA was probably sincere when it stated that the industry was bigger than any single company and that helping its growth would help everyone, including itself. RCA immediately increased the market for its picture tube, NBC's audience, and its income from patent licensing and technical aid, (p. 232).

The Promise of Television in 1947.

Andrew F. Inglis, Behind the Tube(1990):
By the end of 1946, there were fewer than 100,000 television sets in use; 179,000 were added in 1947. . .

David Sarnoff address to the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Atlantic City,September 1947:
This is the message I would like to bring to you. I do not want to ask you to buy television stations, or to erect them, or to urge you to enter television beyond your own convictions, or to promise you immediate profits. But I feel I should be less than frank if I did not on this occasion, particularly when you are all assembled, share with you the thoughts I hold, not only about the future possibilities of television--and my enthusiasm is unlimited as to them--but also the possible effects that television may have upon the present broadcasting business. . .Let me assure you, my friends, after more than forty years of experience in this field of communications and entertainment, I have never seen any protection in merely standing still. There is no protection except through progress. Nor have I ever seen these new scientific developments affect older businesses, except favorably, where those who were progressive gave careful thought and study to the possibilities of new inventions and developments for use in their own businesses. . .Therefore, may I leave you with this final thought: I am not here to urge you to enter the field of television beyond the point where you yourself think it is good business for you to do so; nor to urge that you plunge in all at one time. Rather I would suggest that you reflect carefully and thoughtfully upon the possible ultimate effects of televion upon your established business if you do nothing, and of the great opportunities for your present and future businesses if you do the right thing! (pp. 156,157).

Friday, March 04, 2005

The Cost of a Computer for Business.

Ned Chapin, An Introduction to Automatic Computers(1963):
Buying the stripped-down model is like buying a semifinished house; before you can live in it to comfort, you have to finish the interior work and supply the furnishings. To make effective use of such a computer you must acquire a substantial amount of additional storage equipment, a substantial amount of additional input-output equipment, and some input-output conversion equipment. Often the cost of such optional equipment will run to more than the cost of the basic computer. For example, the quoted base price for the Circle computer was about $57,000, but did not include the optional storage capacity (about $21,000), ten optional magnetic tape units (about $78,250), an optional paper tape reader (about $3100), and optional card input-output equipment (at least $5100). Although the quoted price for the computer was only about $57,000, the cost of the optional equipment came to an additional $107,450. To this would have to be added the price of the input preparation equipment and of any communication equipment. This could easily total more than an additional $100,000, (p.441).

IBM 7090; lease cost per month $65,000; the first large transistorized computer system to be delivered commercially. American Airlines used two 7090s to implament on-line reservation system in 1964.

IBM 1401(1960); lease cost per month $5000; the Southern Railway did its revenue and accounting work on an IBM 705, with two 1401s doing peripheral processing.

IBM 702(1955); lease cost per month $26,000; Chrysler used a 702 primarily to keep track of spare parts but also for vibration analysis in designing new cars. Prudential's applications, maintaining life insurance policy files, actuarial calculations. General Electric, inventory control, design of turbine generators, (Fisher, IBMp. 18).

SAGE(Semi-Automatic Ground Environment).

Franklin M. Fisher et al., IBM and the U.S. Data Processing Industry(1983):
In 1952, shortly after the Soviet Union successfully demonstrated its first nuclear weapon, the U.S. Air Force moved to develop and implement a computer-based air defense system for the continental United States. That system, called SAGE, was intended to provide early warning of a Soviet air attack by tracking airplanes automatically as they travelled across North America and dispatching fighters in case of unauthorized entry. . .Under the SAGE plan the United States was to be divided into 24 radar monitored sectors. Each sector contained a SAGE direction center with a computer installation capable of monitoring that sector's air space by processing radar input, (p.26).

Kenneth Flamm, Creating the Computer(1988):
SAGE was essentially the first wide-area computer network, the first extensive digital data communications system, the first real-time transaction processing system. Concepts developed for its operation formed the base on which time-sharing and computer networks were later developed. Many of these concepts were consciously transported into the business world just a few years later when IBM announced its Semiautomatic Business-Research Environment (SABRE) airline reservation system. SABRE, fully operational in 1964, was the first commercial real-time transaction processing system. The systems are now commonly used for industrial process control, hotel and airline reservations, and financial transactions at automated teller stations. . .IBM had honed its memory technology, AT&T developed the technology of digital data communications and took a commanding lead in high-speed communications netorks and modem technology. Burroughs' small SAGE data reduction computer pushed it into the transistor age, with what was probably the first transistor computer to go into mass production. Graphic display consoles developed for SAGE were the first such devices designed by IBM for a production computer system and later led to the first computer graphics system built at MIT in the early 1960s, (pp. 89-90)

Thursday, March 03, 2005


Paul Virilio, The Information Bomb(2000):
The civilianization or militarization of science?
If truth is what is verifiable, the truth of contemporary science is not so much the extent of progress achieved as the scale of technical catastrophes occasioned.
Science, after having been carried along for almost half a century in the arms race of the East-West deterrence era, has developed solely with a view to the pursuit of limit-performances, to the detriment of any effort to discover a coherant truth useful to humanity.
Modern science, having progressively becometechno-science--the product of the fatal confusion between the operational instrument and exploratory research--has slipped its philosophical moorings and lost its way, without anyone taking umbrage at this, except for a few ecological and religious leaders. . .Science, which was once a rigorous field thriving on intellectual adventure, is today bogged down in a technological adventurism that denatures it. 'Science of the excess', of extremes--a limit-science or the limit of science? (pp. 1,3).

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Japanese Transistors.

The National transistor, which is famous throughout the world, owes its expansion to the divine fingers of young Japanese women. . .Matsushita advertisement, 1961.

Simon Partner,Assembled in Japan(1999):
The transistor radio put Sony, Toshiba, Hitachi, and Japan itself on the industrial map. . .The transistor industry was characterized by extremely rapid technological diffusion caused primarily by the pace of development, which made leading companies anxious to squeeze additional profits from obsolescent technologies through the sale of know-how. . .This rapid dissemination of technology enabled various Japanese companies to begin large-scale manufacturing of transistors and transistor radios. Large companies such as Toshiba, Hitachi, Matsushita, Fujitsu, and Nippon Denki achieved this swift development with extensive--even comprehensive--assistance from American and European firms. The greatest provider was RCA, which offered not only its own alloy transistor but also, through cross-licensing, many of its competitors' advances in transistor technology. As a result, transistor factories established from 1957 to 1960 were fully adequate to the task of producing high-frequency transistors for use in radios, (pp. 206,207).