MOBIDIC (MOBile Digital Computer)

MOBIDICSylvania delivered the first MOBIDIC (MOBile Digital Computer) to the U.S. Army in 1959 after winning the bid for a transistorized computer that could automate the flow of information on the battlefield, taking messages in any form and passing them to their destination. This concept was called Fieldata by the Signal Corps and MOBIDIC was referred to as the AN/MYK-1.

The mobile system consisted of two semi trailers, one housing the computer and another running the generator for power. A handful of models were produced, including a dual CPU version that was installed at the Army’s Tactical Ops Center. The military soon found that the system was useful in other areas including logistics and supply, and eventually used it for ordnance supply and control. The Fieldata project was cancelled in 1962, and all of the MOBIDC systems that remained were sold or moved to supply operations where they continued to operate for many years.

A commercial model of the MOBIDIC was released as the Sylvania 9400, but only two were ordered by the Pentagon and California General Telephone. Sylvania abruptly left the market due to rising costs. General Telephone cancelled their order and since the machine was already built it wound up being used internally by Sylvania.

Although not very many of these machines were built and they were not well known, they are directly linked to an important computer history milestone; the Fieldata project heavily influenced the creation of ASCII years later. All development on the Fieldata project was done on the MOBIDIC systems, and it was the original, internal character set for the 1100 series UNIVACs built by Unisys. The Fieldata character set was the default in Unisys computers until 1996.

Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed