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The Industrial Era

1952 - 1954

The Second Generation of computers started approximately in this era. They were characterized by electromechanical mechanisms and (partly) programmable in the sense of von Neumann's stored program architecture.

  • IBM model 701
  • Cronkite got it wrong
  • A/O and FORTRAN a few of the first higher level computer languages

pre history | antiquity | pre industrial era | industrial era

1947 1949 1950 1952 1955 1958 1961 1963 1965 1969 1970 1972 1974
1976 1978 1980 1981 1982 1984 1986 1989 1991 1993 1994 1996 2000
2002 2005                      



IBM (International Business Machines) decides to add computers to their line of business equipment products.

This will lead IBM to become a dominant force in this field. The first production-line electronic digital computer from IBM is Model 701, designed by Nathaniel Rochester and marketed for scientific use. It includes 1 Kb RAM. The 701 is the first machine to use a Tape Drive.

ibm 701ibm 701 (4)

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A juicy detail: a complaint against IBM is filed alleging monopolistic practices in its computer business, in violation of the Sherman act.(2) (see also 1953 - Philips)


Grace Murray Hopper an employee of Remington-Rand works on the UNIVAC.

She takes up the concept of reusable software in her 1952 paper entitled "The Education of a Computer",(20) and develops the first software that can translate symbols of higher computer languages into machine language. (A/O compiler)


Jay Forrester develops magnetic core memory at M.I.T.(2) However An Wang did so in 1948, another fine example of parallel invention.

Jay Forrester


The EDVAC ( Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer) is completed at Moore School by Mauchly, Eckert and Von Neumann.

von Neumann with edvac


A UNIVAC I computer made by Remington-Rand accurately predicts the outcome of the US presidential election, this brings the computer to the attention of the general public.(2)

univacunivac election night
Univac I and univac during election time (right)(23)

But Mr. Cronkite the anchor of the news show and his editor team can not believe the results that the machine calculated and had the predictions changed. So it appears, at least to the public, that the computer is wrong, but in fact it are the editors themselves. They felt it not to be "politically correct" to make the predictions of the Univac public in such an early stage. Or as others said later: they could not believe the statistical analysis.

a statement from Eckert and Cronkite, afterwards


The first computer manual ever was written by Fred Gruenberger for the University of Wisconsin Press (15) (16) Prefaced by d'Uzjian (he) describes (a) future where computer technology will be seamlessly merged into an appliance that looks and feels remarkably like today's modern microwave oven.


RCA develops the Bizmac with iron core memory and a magnetic drum supporting the first Database.


Alick Glennie develops Auto code, the first compiler. But this one is restricted for military use only .(11)


A first concept of Integrated Circuits is published by Geoffrey Dummer in Washington.(11)


The very first computer in the Netherlands is constructed by W.L. van der Poel: Testudo(5).

Testudo displayed at TU Delft (NL)

Construction started in 1947 and completed at TU Delft by students after van der Poels' design.(3) The relay based machine measures 5 by 0.6 meters. Adding takes 30 seconds and multiplication 45 seconds(6)

Talking about bloopers. The Mathematical Center of Amsterdam University puts a computer made in the Amsterdam, Netherlands on line: Arra.(21) The system appears however only to be working at the official opening. Gerrit Blaauw redesigns the Arra and that one will prove to be a success: the Arra II(22)  
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IBM introduces the first "mass" produced computer: type 650 also known as the Magnetic Drum Computer.

ibm_650.gif (4673 bytes)(4)

This is a machine between mainframe and micro. Later this breed of machines will be called mini computers. The first year of production approximately 450 will be sold. In the following 15 years about 1500 (1800(11)) will be sold. And that is for this period an unsurpassed sales result. Like the 701, the 650 can both read from and write to magnetic tape and punched cards.


Bell Telephone Laboratories build the first completely transistorized computer, the TRADIC.

The machine contains 800 transistors.


Tradic computer, interface panel mounted in a B52 Bomber, (17)


The first high speed printer is developed by Remington Rand for use on the UNIVAC


Magnetic-core memory replaced electrostatic tubes on Whirlwind, doubling the speed, quadrupling the input data rate and reducing memory bank maintenance time from 4 hours/day to 2 hours/day (11)

whirlwind 1950



First product to use transistors is on the market: hearing aids.


In the Netherlands Philips built the PETER (Philips Experimentele Tweetallig Electronische Rekenmachine). But by an agreement with IBM Philips promises not to enter the computer market and developed computers only for internal use. ( 22)


ILLIAC - the world most powerful computer ran at University of Illinois.


We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done.
Alan Turing, on computers in 1953


In October, Paul Niquette coined the word 'software.' (25)

how does a transistor work on software

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A first attempt in automatic translation was done in January when an IBM 701 was used in a research project to translate Russian into English. The result is enhanced by using electronic dictionaries and a number of programs that contained the syntax rules of different languages. A satisfactory translation was achieved. Much of the knowledge gained in this project was used in the Echelon project. More details on the Echelon project see footnote12


John W. Backus an employee of IBM designes the programming language FORTRAN(7)


FORTRAN: FORmula TRANslator.

Engineers and scientist definitively chose this path of programming with a higher computer language. Rewiring of machines to reprogram them belonged to the past. Another gigantic step forward! (1952: Grace Hopper)

Scientist could work independently from programmers and offer their programs directly to computers to run them. It took until 1956 before a manual appeared. Documentation would always be the last thing programmers do obviously.

1957-fortran manual (4)


In this year IBM's first commercial computer: IBM 704, is introduced.

With build in indexing and a Floating Point Unit it could reach 40.000 additions per second and capable of approximately 5 kFLOPS.  Principal architect is Gene Amdahl who also designed the first Operating System ever for a computer, in this case it was the IBM 704.

IBM introduced a the IBM 726. This tape drive wrote 100 characters per inch and read 75 inches of tape per second. This machine was going to be the standard drive for several years to come and delivered with all IBM computers.  

Gordon Teal of Texas Instruments found a way to make transistors from large mono crystals of cheap silicon oxide. The dimensions were still relatively small: some millimeters to a few centimeters.


The first company to start with mass production of silicon transistors is Texas Instruments

Readhow does a transistor workon transistors.


The NORC (Naval Ordinance Research Computer) is a special made computer constructed by IBM for the American navy.

IBM Norc computer (courtesy IBM corp)

This machine will be used for logistic services and contains over 9000 vacuum tubes.


In Japan the Parametron computer is invented by Eiichi Goto

parametron parallel computer from Japan

The principle of the Parametron is invented by professor Eiichi Goto. The machine called Musasino I is built in the laboratory of the Japanese PTT (NTT) at Musasino - Japan. The architecture has a strong resemblance to the ILLIAC 1, the one being built on the University of Illinois (USA). The reason was that scientists consciously chose to reuse the program code of the ILLIAC.(10) It will take a few years before this type can be commercialized.


Jack Tramiel starts Commodore.

cbm.gif (543 bytes)

This firm will be the one that took the front runner position in the field of Personal Computers, a term not even coined yet. It would give the greatest push ever in the hobby computer industry. Commodore marketed famous machines like the Commodore C64, VIC20 and the Amiga machines. The latter was very advanced for its time, but hampered by bad quality of parts. However in the first few years of its existence Commodore would just repair typing machines and related equipment.

Commodore's most sold computers ever
amiga 1000
commodore c64
commodore v20
Commodore Amiga 1000
Commodore C64
Commodore V20

Fujitsu Ltd. puts the first Japanese computer on the marked: the Facom-100.

facom 100
fujitsufacom 100

Above is shown an office situation


Devol patents the first programmable robot and coins the term Universal Automation.

At the suggestion of his wife, Evelyn, he later shortens this to Unimation. When he filed a U.S. patent for a programmable method for transferring articles between different parts of a factory, he wrote: "The present invention makes available for the first time a more or less general purpose machine that has universal application to a vast diversity of applications where cyclic control is desired."(24)

read history of robottics on the history of robotics in our robotics timeline.

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