Wednesday, October 1, 2008

In the Beginning

Do you ever stop to wonder how this whole computer universe began? Let's hop in the Wayback Machine, set the dial for 1951, and take a look at the UNIVAC I.

Look! There's Walter Cronkite.

The UNIVAC I (UNIVersal Automatic Computer I) was the first commercial computer made in the United States. In the years before successor models of the UNIVAC I appeared, the machine was simply known as "the UNIVAC". I wonder if they used a similar system when naming Preparation H. Was there a Preparation G?

See those four people to the right? Click on it to enlarge. Deer in the headlights?

The first UNIVAC was delivered to the United States Census Bureau on March 31, 1951. The fifth machine (built for the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission) was used by CBS to predict the result of the 1952 presidential election. With a sample of just 1% of the voting population it correctly predicted that Eisenhower would win.

Originally priced at $159,000, the UNIVAC I rose in price until they were between $1,250,000 and $1,500,000. (They were selling a lot of them to the government.)
UNIVAC I used 5,200 vacuum tubes and weighed 29,000 pounds. The Central Complex alone (i.e. the processor and memory unit) was 14 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 8.5 feet high.

The girl pictured above is hypnotized
by the wonder of it all.

The girl on the right is
searching for the
Control-Alt-Delete thingy.

So if you get weary carrying your laptop back and forth to work or around the house, be grateful someone figured out how to compress that UNIVAC I equipment into a much smaller and lighter package.

We've come a long way, baby!


Panda707 said...

Wow! Now I'm REALLY thankful for my laptop!

Michael Broadway said...

Me, too! That thing wouldn't fit in my car every day.