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[infowar.de] 50 Jahre Computer in der US Air Force
Der Text ist zwar reine Werbung (von der AF-Presseabteilung), aber das
Jubiläum, das mir gerade erst aufgefallen ist, wollte ich nicht ohne
Notiz verstreichen lassen. Interessant, wofür er benutzt wurde: Für
Und der erste Bug war gar kein Käfer, sondern ein Fisch, der sich im
Kühlsystem verfangen hatte. :-)
Feb. 1 marks 50 years of computing in Air Force
by Lori Manske
Air Force Communications Agency Public Affairs
02/01/02 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFPN) -- When the Air Force
stepped into the computer age 50 years ago, it was with a garage-size
central processing unit that ran at a then-astronomical rate of 2.25
megahertz. It covered at least 352 square feet of floor space and came
with more than a dozen desk- or refrigerator-size peripherals.
On Feb. 1, 1952, the Air Force became the second government agency to
get a Universal Automatic Computer, or UNIVAC, from Remington Rand, Inc.
It was installed in the basement of the Pentagon where the Air Force
comptroller operated it until 1958.
?In the history of the 20th century, no technological advancement
affected American society, and the world, as profoundly as the
computer,? said Col. Thomas J. Verbeck, commander of the Air Force
Communications Agency here. ?In 1951, the UNIVAC became the standard for
technological innovation at the dawn of the computer age. It was the
sign of things to come in the technology revolution.?
The UNIVAC was the first computer that businesses could actually order
and purchase back in 1951. Most computers were one-of-a-kind machines.
Only 46 UNIVAC Is were made, but that was considered mass production
The UNIVAC was designed by Dr. John Mauchly, a physicist, and John
Presper Eckert Jr., an engineer. The UNIVAC I was delivered to its first
customer, the U.S. Census Bureau, in 1951, and the third computer went
to the Army in 1952.
Mauchly and Eckert contracted with the U.S. government to provide three
computers, at a price of $159,000 for the first and $250,000 for each of
the other two, even though more than $1 million was spent on its
development. Later UNIVAC Is sold for more than $1 million.
The UNIVAC I?s first task for the Air Force was to run a linear
programming model to do logistics calculations for war planning. When it
outlived its usefulness there in 1958, the machine was shipped to the
Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.
Today?s personal computer processors clock speeds at more than 2
gigahertz. In the age of silicon chips and the Internet, a personal
computer can add numbers 26,000 times faster than the UNIVAC.
While the UNIVAC is a dinosaur compared to today's workstations, it was
a technological marvel in 1951. It was used to tally part of the 1950
U.S. population census, drastically reducing the workload of the human
tabulators. The original UNIVAC I from the U.S. Census Bureau is now at
the Smithsonian Institution preserved as a forefather of the computer
The UNIVAC's predecessor was the Electronic Numerator, Integrator,
Analyzer, and Computer. This 30-ton mathematical monster was developed
during World War II for the military and was considered the original
Back in the days when mass storage was massive, the ENIAC had 30
separate units, plus power supply and forced-air cooling, and weighed
more than 30 tons. Its 19,000 vacuum tubes, 1,500 relays, and hundreds
of thousands of resistors, capacitors, and inductors consumed almost 200
kilowatts of electrical power. But ENIAC was the prototype from which
most other modern computers evolved.
By comparison, the more petite UNIVAC weighed about 16,000 pounds, used
5,000 vacuum tubes, and could perform about 1,000 calculations per
second. The premier UNIVAC was a leaner, meaner version of ENIAC.
UNIVAC?s place in history was set on election night in 1952, when, based
on early returns in the presidential vote, a UNIVAC stamped with serial
number ?5? correctly predicted Dwight D. Eisenhower's landslide
electoral victory over Adlai E. Stevenson. Skeptical broadcasters chose
not to air the UNIVAC prediction, acknowledging its accuracy only after
the election had been decided.
The UNIVAC used magnetic tape for input/output rather than the punch
card technology of its contemporaries. The central complex housed the
mercury memory unit and all the central processing unit circuitry. A
clear Plexiglas door provided access to the center of the system: it was
a walk-in computer. The vacuum tubes generated an enormous amount of
heat, so a high-capacity chilled water and blower air conditioning
system cooled the unit.
The first computer ?bug? failure was actually a computer ?fish.? One
UNIVAC was cooled with water from the local river and failed from
overheating. The cause was traced to a fish blocking one of the intake
Besides the central complex, there were eight tape drives, an operator
console, and a console typewriter/printer. The complete system had 5,200
vacuum tubes, weighed 29,000 pounds, and consumed 125 kilowatts of
Unisys' ES7000 server today offers 216,000 times the speed and 7.6
million times the memory of the UNIVAC, while consuming just fractions
of the electrical power and weight.
?UNIVAC marks a milestone in the history of computing, making the 20th
century a time of innovation,? Verbeck said. "Today, a Valentine?s card
with an electronic music chip inside has about as much computing power
as the ENIAC. A laptop computer has more power than the combined power
of all the computers in the world 50 years ago.?
What once filled an entire room is now on a tiny card costing a few
dollars. ?Talented, innovative people improved on what those early
computer geniuses began,? Verbeck said. ?Computers got smaller, faster,
and smarter. Fifty years later, we?re still moving quickly along the
road of progress and productivity. The coming years will reveal what
computing and networks are really about -- new ways to communicate, do
business, organize, think, and live.?
Today, computers do much more than just compute. Supermarket scanners
calculate grocery bills and at the same time, keep inventory;
computerized telephone switching centers manage millions of calls and
keep lines of communication untangled; and automatic teller machines
allow people to conduct banking transactions from virtually anywhere in
?Information capabilities -- the combination of computing power and
communications links that provide data, information, and knowledge --
have changed the world,? Verbeck said. ?In the air operations and tanker
airlift control centers, commanders depend on computers and
communications systems for situational awareness, mission planning, and
command and control. Linked to sensors and control centers, warfighters
have the advantages of power, speed, flexibility, and precision on the
?Rapid innovations in Web-enabled processes, wiser use of technology,
and network-centric operations, have demonstrated the combat power of
the network at work in the hands of every one of us,? he said.
An overall view of the UNIVAC I installed in the Pentagon in 1952.
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