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A Survey of Domestic Electronic
Distributed by OTS in the Interest of Industry
Digital Computing Systems
This report is a reprint of an original document resulting from Government-sponsored
research. It is made available by OTS through the cooperation of the originating
agency. Quotations should credit the authors and the originating agency. No
responsibility is assumed for completeness or accuracy of this report. Where
patent questions appear to be involved, the usual preliminary search is suggested.
If Copyrighted material appears, permission for use should be requested of the
copyright owners. Any security restrictions .that may have applied to this report
have been removed.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
OFFICE OF TECHNICAL SERVICES
BALLISTIC RESEARCH LABORATORIES
REPORT NO. 971
A SURVEY OF DOMESTIC ELECTRONIC DIGITAL COMPUTING SYSTEMS
Martin H. Weik
Department of the Anny Project No. 5B0306002
Ordnance Research and. Development Project No. TB3-0007
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, MARYLAND
BALLISTIC RESEARCH LABORATORIES
REPORT NO. 971
A SURVEY OF DOMESTIC ELECTRONIC DIGITAL COMPUTING SYSTEMS
Aberdeen Proving Ground., Md.
The engineering characteristics, logical features, operating experiences, cost factors
and. personnel requirements of eightyfour different domestic digital electronic computing
,systems are described. An analysis of the computer field, a discussion of trends and a
complete glossary of computer engineering and programming terminology are included.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
This report represents the culmination of many months of part-time effort of many
persons on the Engineering Staff of the Computing Laboratory of the Ballistic Research
Laboratories. To mention the names of all of the persons vbo have contributed, to this
report would, indeed, result in a long list and to evaluate relative contributions would,
be a very difficult task. Without the cooperation and. support of Mr. Homer W. Spence,
Chief of the Computer Research Branch, this publication would, not have been possible.
Outstanding contributions in the form of actual processing of the data, and suggestions
on form and content have been made by Messrs. Frank Schrelner, William Bramer, and
Robert Wyman. Many valuable suggestions', were received from persons on the engineering
and administrative staffs of the Computing Laboratory.
The collection and processing of data on domestic computing systems is, of course,
impossible without the cooperation of the contributors. Industrial, governmental and
educational agencies have been extremely cooperative in supplying the data necessary
to make this report possible. Appreciation is gratefully extended to each and every
It has been the intent of the author to refrain from incorporating any opinion or
evaluation of computing systems or components, into this report. This report does not
constitute an endorsement of any of the products described herein, either on the part
of the author, the Engineering Staff of the Computing Laboratory or the U.S. Government.
It is desired that any discrepancies, errors, or incorrect information contained in this
report be brought to the attention of the author. Additional information on the systems
described herein as well as other or new systems is indeed very welcome. Comments and
suggestions regarding the contents of this report are welcome. Direct communications to:
Ballistic Research Laboratories
Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.
Attn: Chief, Computing Laboratory
1. Purpose and. Scope
Early in -the Spring of 1954 the current and. anticipated computational work load. at the
Ballistic Research Laboratories required a thorough evaluation of its computing facilities.
This necessitated a complete study of the state of the electronic computer art. The results
of this study could then be used to evaluate the BRL facility from the standpoint of time,
material, labor and. fund. utilization.
The large demand, for rapid, scientific and. commercial computational and
data processing systems during World War II gave rise to an intense interest in the
development of faster and. more efficient methods of handling quantities of data.
Since the early start -with the ENIAC, tremendous strides have been made in the
electronic computer field. The old question of "What can an electronic computer do?"
has been changed to "Hov can an electronic computer be utilized in my business?"
For any person or organization to remain fully informed on this fast changing
field is a large task. Proper surveillance of existing and. projected, computing
systems for the sole purpose of evaluating a given computing system or collection
of systems from the point of view of time, cost and. labor economy has become a
difficult task. In order to grasp the present status of the computing field, one
must look at each facet separately. The computing systems in existence, the systems
available, and their comparison is but a single facet. Programming, problem analysis,
and numerical analysis are but examples of the mathematical facet of the computer field.
Other facets might be the manufacturing of systems, the studies of optimum systems for
particular applicatioi's, and personnel problems. The study of computing hardware
itself has just begun.
In this report, foreign, analogue and relay computers have not been included.
Only domestic, electronic, digital computers have been consid.ered. This report
constitutes a d-escription of a very dynamic field. So rapid are computer
developments that technological obsolescence exists in computing systems and
components that are now being installed or constructed in many computing centers.
The methods one may use to keep well informed on a large rapidly changing
field will vary; one may engage in extensive travels, hold discussions with
various leaders in the field, or read the literature about the subject.
Attempts may be made to
combine these methods. The gathering of information on computing
systems becomes necessary and consequently a systematic method of
collection is developed.. Once the information is collected, it must be
placed in a readily usable form, particularly for internal use at one's own computing
center. Reproduction, therefore, naturally follows and depending upon the interest
expressed, distribution is made of the compiled, collected information. Outside
distribution of the information becomes a necessity in view of common courtesy to
the contributors of the information and is further based on the ethical principles
of free exchange of unclassified information in order that proper use of the
information may be made. In essence, it is necessary that information useful
to other organizations be disseminated. These are the purposes of this publication.
The uses of this report are many. Some examples are familiarization of
persons new in the field, systems designs, applications, and computer characteristic
studies. Operators of the various systems may be interested in operating experience
and reliability. Persons concerned with acquisition would be very interested in cost
and delivery time. Users are concerned with precision (i.e. word length) and speed of
computations as well as storage capacity and instruction codes. The purpose of
including a glossary of computer programming and engineering terminology is to
provide the definitions of terms used in this report.
In utilizing this report, one must keep in mind at all times, several factors,
and these cannot be overemphasized. The field is changing rapidly. Comparison
of systems Is exceedingly difficult and in view of the many ramifications that exist
on each computing system feature and because of the many explanations that must
rightfully accompany any type of comparative study, the tables of comparison
contained in this report must be used with utmost caution. Relative advantages
of one system over another can only be defined in the light of the particular
application. In view of the many inadequacies of this report, it is still hoped
that it will prove to be of some interest and use to those persons engaged in
the computing and data processing field.
2. Acquisition and Processing of Data
The primary sources of information contained in this report are the manufacturers and
operators of computing systems. Acquisition of data was made through detailed
questionnaires sent to ail known manufacturers and operators, requesting not only
the information specifically outlined In the questionnaires, but also the names and
addresses of the users of their respective computing systems. The secondary sources
of information were the
technical and commercial publications by government and industry.
Some information was obtained, as a resuit of visits to certain installations by
Computing Laboratory personnel. Information, from these several sources, was
combined, and a system description prepared.. The cooperation received, from all
has been very gratifying.
Publication of this report should, not terminate the necessity for continued
surveillance of computing systems. This report is being made available to persons
in the computing and data processing field. It is deemed very appropriate that
supplements, addenda and errata material be published periodically. In order to
make the anticipated additions, a copy of the questionnaire used in gathering
the data is included in order to provide a guide for the submitting of material
and allow for a uniform presentation of data on each system. Organizations are
requested to submit information on their new systems, systems not included herein,
and operating experience on the older systems for possible subsequent publications
in this field.
3. Interpretation of the Data
This report is but a cursory glance at a very large and intricate field, and a great
deal of detail and pertinent explanations have not been Included because of time, space,
manpower and cost factors. Although the greatest possible care was exercised,
the probability that at least one error exists in each computing system described
is rather high, and consequently verification from the manufacturer or operator may
become necessary prior to making any major decision based on the data contained,
in this report. Very often, an item of information concerning a computing system
can be very misleading when it is isolated from certain other associated information.
In obtaining information from several sources, such as manufacturers, operators
and published literature, discrepancies will arise. These were resolved as best as
possible, and of course, perhaps with some resultant error and displeasure on the
part of some person or organization. Again, the appeal is made to inform this
agency of any such errors, discrepancies and remarks concerning this report.
Other errors may well be due to different interpretations of the entries on the
Computing System Questionnaire, which is discussed in the preceding chapter.
For example, in the matter of cost and price, an agency of government or
industry would inclucLe all the research and development costs as well as the
fabrication of the system in the cost figure. Some cost figures are actually
the prices paid to a manufacturer for a system and other cost figures are the
prices quoted by the manufacturer. One must always keep in mind
that production line machines that are produced in quantity as well as singly fabricated,
machines are included in this report. Another example is the question of Personnel
Requirements. Some figures are those actually used by an operator. Others are the
figures quoted by the manufacturer as being necessary to service and operate his
system properly. A third example is the question of Reliability and Operating
Experience. There is, perhaps, a great deal of estimation and guess-work involved
in arriving at the figures on Average Error Free Running Period, Good-time, Attempted
to Run Time and the Operating Ratio. These figures are the most controversial in this
report and are perhaps most likely subject to different interpretations. Hence, the
operators remarks are quoted without any type of re-arrangement of the data, in order
to minimize any misunderstanding or mis-interpretation.
In order to avoid opinionated and controversial items, as much as possible, it
had been decided from the very outset, that only items that could be considered
factual would be included. Debatable items such as claims, criticism of competitive
organizations, indirect comparison of systems, and certain comparative or superlative
adjectives used in describing features of computing systems were eliminated as a
matter of fairness. There is no Intent to engage in any sales activity whatsoever.
It is emphasized that the reproduction of this report in whole or in part without
the consent of the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps or the Department of the Army is
strictly prohibited. This restriction is not imposed to limit the free exchange
of information, but primarily to avoid misunderstanding and misinterpretation of
Should it be desirable to ascertain a specific item of information concerning a
known computing system, refer to the system description and the subheading under
which that item is located, rather than refer to the tabulations shown in
Tables I through XV. For example, to determine the capacity of the magnetic
drum for OARAC, refer to OARAC and read under the heading of "Storage". To
determine which machines have drum capacities of the order of 10,000-44
binary digit words, refer to Table VIII of the chapter on "Analysis and Trends,"
and, among others, you will find the OARAC. The information contained In
Tables I through XV includes only those computing systems which are described
in this report.
Computing System Questionaire - page 1,
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Computing System Questionaire - page 2,
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