|Manufacturer||University of Wisconsin|
|Date of first manufacture||start January 1951, complete about 1955|
|Estimated price or cost||-|
|location in museum||-|
Contents of this page:
Photo - 63 K Bytes
|WISC - by Ron Mak|
|55 bit word|
|2 "static" registers, 4 registers recirculating on the drum [this saved vacuum tubes]|
This e-mail is from Paul Pierce to inforoots atsign computerhistory dot org - February 2, 2005
About the WISC, history and restoration-
Some of the history of the WISC, as I remember my father telling me; some of this also came from Gene Amdahl. My father Dick Pierce and I both studied Electrical Engineering at Wisconsin, and my father also briefly owned the WISC.
Gene Amdahl was the designer (or perhaps architect) of the WISC, which was the first pipelined machine. However, he left before it was built. I don't know if he even did any of the circuit design. It was built by Professor Charlie Davidson and his students. If any documentation remains (apart from the published technical reports) it might be in his papers.
When the Engineering school was through with the WISC, they sold it through university surplus. Dr. John McNall, an astronomy professor and a good friend of my father, wanted the machine but could not bid on it because of university rules. So my father bid on it for him, and they loaded it up in my uncle Peter's 1951 pickup and hauled it out to Middleton, just west of Madison. Dr. McNall set it up in a downtown storefront and let high school kids run programs on it. Later he moved it into storage in his basement, it was there that it acquired the bullet holes. I believe they were strays from outside.
After Dr. McNall died from cancer, the WISC seems to have gone back to the University, or maybe Dr. Amdahl bought it from his widow. In any case I was there when the Engineering school presented Dr. Amdahl with an honor and he acquired the WISC. He took it to California and displayed it in the lobby of Trilogy. A friend and I visited him there some time in the mid 1980's, this was the first time I remember seeing the WISC in person. Ultimately Dr. Amdahl was persuaded to present the WISC to the Computer History Museum.
There is a photo of the WISC in Wieks (3rd edition) that shows it standing in one of the labs in the old Electrical Engineering building (I had lots of classes there.) In the center you can clearly see that it has a Flexowriter console typewriter, not a Teletype. Since the Flexowriter has a parallel interface there is no need for a "UART" in the WISC, and much of the logic is probably shared between the Flexowriter and the paper tape reader and punch. To be authentic, the WISC should be displayed with a Flexowriter instead of the Model 15 Teletype. Unlike teletypes, Flexowriters seem to have come with many different interface arrangements. It might be very difficult to find one that matched electrically. But a lot of them look the same, so for display its not so hard. I have a bunch if you need one.
Probably all the frames of the WISC have survived, and there should be a module tester along with it too. However, its likely some cables have been lost, and more important, its very likely all the technical documentation is gone. As a university project its likely that the technical documentation was never very clear or complete. Restoring the WISC would be a very difficult project. The first thing, and very much worth doing in any case, would be to do some serious research to find any and all documentation.
Here is something else I found:
Memorial to Harold Peterson, chairman of the department at the time the WISC was built- http://www.secfac.wisc.edu/senate/20020506/1643(mem_res).pdf
and the relevant excerpt:
... He was instrumental in the development of computer technology in the Department of Electrical Engineering. He encouraged Professor Rideout in developing instruction and research in analog computers. Two Ph.D. students in physics, Dr. Gene Amdahl and Dr. Charles Davidson, came to Peterson in 1950 with the idea of building a digital computer. Professor Peterson encouraged them, provided space and a home in the department, and assisted in finding financing for the development of the Wisconsin Integrally Synchronized Computer (WISC), the first digital computer built in Wisconsin. Numerous electrical engineering graduate students did the research for their MS and Ph.D. degrees on the WISC project, and many went on to key positions in the computer industry.
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Updated November, 2012