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Back in the UNIVAC era

A reader writes about his experiences with UNIVAC--the "granddaddy" of computers.


Back in the UNIVAC era

In response to the June 15 Associated Press article discussing UNIVAC's 50th anniversary:

I'm a very mature "data processing person" (a seldom-used term in the PC time frame; in fact, most current geeks do not really know what data processing is).

I saw my first UNIVAC at Castle Air Force Base, Merced, Calif., in Base Supply (SAC, 93rd Bomb Wing) in 1958. The room in which it was located was about twice the size of my on-base quarters (well, staff sergeants did not get a "big" house). I worked in the Data Processing function at HQ Squadron for the Bomb Wing and Fighter Squadron. Those were the good ol' days of 80-column cards, key punches, verifiers, card sorters, 602 calculators, and the granddaddy of "computers": the 407 Accounting machine.

All with "hand wired" control panels--that's not a plug-in device, as you may know. I remember the RAMAC maintenance crew used to stand by and plug in new tubes, because the heat and use would blow them suckers out all day long. I did not get to work on the RAMAC but was able to observe from time to time. It was an adventure to watch the control arm move up and down the disk system. It moved at a speed that you could see--amazing. I can store more on PC than we could on the UNIVAC.

Eldon Thompson
Burbank, Calif.