NEAC 1101

neac1101Built by NEC in 1958, this was one of Japan’s first digital computers. It used so called parametron devices invented by Goto Eiichi and was the first Japanese computer to do floating point arithmetic. The devices utilized a switching technology similar to magnetic core that was more stable than vacuum tubes.

Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC)

decDEC was created by Ken Olsen and Harlan Anderson, two MIT engineers, in 1957 and rose to legendary status during it’s existence. The company has produced several influential computers and design concepts, forever emblazing it on the face of technology history. It is one of the first computer companies to find success in the minicomputer market with their PDP and VAX machines. From the early 60s to the 90s it was a leading manufacturer and vendor, with products like the PDP-11, PDP-8, and one of the first 32 bit minicomputers, the VAX-11. Born from the early TX-2 machine, the first DEC products shipped in 1958 and were made up of electronics and transistors mounted to a circuit board. The Digital Laboratory Module turned a record profit in 1958.

Later on the PDP-1 was developed and shown publicly for the first time in 1959. The machine was produced until 1969 and DEC sold 53 of them. The PDP-4 was released in 1962, followed by the PDP-7 in 1964, the first machine that ran Unix. Following up with the VAX architecture in 1976, they also introduced some of the early concepts of cluster machines, incorporating the VAXcluster technology into the line which became the first clustering system to achieve commercial success. In 1977 Olsen famously scoffed at microcomputers, believing there wasn’t any need for an individual to have a computer in their home.


programming2The LISP programming language was invented by John McCarthy at MIT in 1958. Since it’s inception, it has been closely related with artificial intelligence research. It used many principles from the first AI language, Information Processing Language. He published a paper showing that one could build an entire language using simple operators and functions.

The language was first implemented on an IBM 704 computer, and the first LISP compiler was written in 1962. It was also used in some of the earliest artificial intelligence systems like SHRDLU. In the early 1970s, computing memory power wasn’t enough to run truly efficient LISP code, so dedicated LISP machines were built. In the 80s and 90s the different variations of the code that had spawned were unified into the Common LISP standard, but by then it’s glory days were over. It is one of the oldest known languages, and is still in use today along with it’s siblings COBOL and Fortran.

Bolt Beranek and Newman (BBN)

logoBolt, Beranek and Newman was one of the pioneer companies in the world of computers. Two MIT professors, Richard Bolt and Leo Beranek, started up a small acoustical consulting company in 1948. With the addition of Robert Newman, Bolt Baranek and Newman or BBN, was born.

Throughout the 1950s, the company was mainly involved in acoustical instruments and research, making huge advancements in this field. In 1958 the company bought it’s first computer, an LDP-30. In the 1960s BBN began it’s famous forray into computing building components for the PDP-1. Some of the company’s most notable achievements include the first demo of computer time sharing, the first public demo of an electronic communications system, creating LOGO, invention of packet switching, and building the ARPANET. It was also a BBN employee that invented email and the first routers. Clearly, BBN has played a large role in the shape of computer science only on a par with IBM. BBN still operates today in Cambridge, MA. where it continues to build and research electronic components, acoustic engineering, and computer science. If it hadn’t been for BBN, you wouldn’t be reading this right now!

The Computer Modem

modemIn 1958, researchers at Bell Telephone Labs invent the modem, a device that converts data from computers to the phone line and back again. This switching of digital to analog makes computer networks possible. At the time there was a desire to connect to distant  computers, and the obvious choice was to use the existing phone network. The original equipment ran at a paltry 1,000 bits per second and was offered as a commercial service. During the 1960s, modem technology would move swiftly, bringing ever-increasing speeds and reliability.

Bell Labs

belllabs2From A Brief History of Lucent Technologies

On Feb. 14, 1876 Elisha Gray lost his race to invent the telephone; Alexander Graham Bell put in a patent application just hours before Gray filed one.

Gray, however, had already left his mark on telephony seven years before when, in 1869, he and Enos N. Barton formed Gray and Barton, a small manufacturing firm based in Cleveland, Ohio. Three years later, the then Chicago-based firm was renamed the Western Electric Manufacturing Company. By 1880, it was the largest electrical manufacturing company in the United States, noted for its production of a variety of electrical equipment, including the world’s first commercial typewriters, telegraph equipment and Thomas A. Edison’s electric pen.

A year later in 1881, when the growth of the telephone network was outstripping the capacity of smaller suppliers, American Bell purchased a controlling interest in Western Electric and made it the exclusive developer and manufacturer of equipment for the Bell telephone companies.

In 1907, Theodore N. Vail combined the AT&T (formerly American Bell) and Western Electric engineering departments into a single organization that, in 1925, would become Bell Telephone Laboratories.

In the course of its ongoing research, Bell Telephone Laboratories made several discoveries that would touch the lives of millions in years to come. For example, Bell Labs developed the first commercially viable system for adding sound to motion pictures. Combined with studio and theater equipment manufactured by Western Electric, this system moved Hollywood quickly from silence to sound. The first demonstration of television in the United States in April 1927 was another notable first for Bell Labs.

Ten years later, in one of its most memorable moments, Dr. Clinton J. Davisson became the first of 11 Nobel Prize winners from Bell Laboratories for his experimental confirmation of the wave nature of electrons.

After playing a critical role in providing communications and command equipment for the U.S. military during World War II, Western Electric was able to direct its efforts toward filling the pent-up demand for telephones. In 1946, it produced a record 4 million telephones. Bell Labs directed its research in new areas as well. Three of its scientists received the Nobel Prize for their invention of the transistor in 1947. Bell Labs moved on from there to develop distinguished “firsts” in communications that include the laser, Telstar satellites, electronic switching, UNIX operating system, and packet data switching.

Kilby Integrated Circuit

kilbyTransistors had become commonplace in everything from radios to phones to computers, and now manufacturers wanted something even better. Sure, transistors were smaller than vacuum tubes, but for some of the newest electronics, they weren’t small enough.

One day in late July, Jack Kilby was sitting alone at Texas Instruments. He had been hired only a couple of months earlier and so he wasn’t able to take vacation time when practically everyone else did. The halls were deserted, and he had lots of time to think. It suddenly occurred to him that all parts of a circuit, not just the transistor, could be made out of silicon. At the time, nobody was making capacitors or resistors out of semiconductors. If it could be done then the entire circuit could be built out of a single crystal — making it smaller and much easier to produce. Kilby’s boss liked the idea, and told him to get to work. By September 12, Kilby had built a working model, and on February 6, Texas Instruments filed a patent. Their first “Solid Circuit” the size of a pencil point, was shown off for the first time in March.