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The NORC and Problems in High-Speed Computing

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129374D
Original Publication Date: 1981-Jul-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-05
Document File: 6 page(s) / 29K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

JOHN VON NEUMANN: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

In the fall of 1954 the Watson Scientific Laboratory of IBM announced the completion of the Naval Ordnance Research Calculator -- the NORC. As its name implies, this machine was designed and constructed for the U.S. Navy's Bureau of Ordnance by members of the Watson Laboratory under the engineering direction of Byron L. Havens and the overall direction of Wallace J. Eckert, the laboratory's chief. It was moved from New York to the Naval Proving Ground at Dahlgren, Virginia, in 1955. This device was built at a time when IBM had just finished and delivered about twenty of its 701 computers and was a further attempt by IBM to explore the directions in which to move in the new and uncharted field of electronic computers. It was very fitting that Thomas J. Watson, Sr., should have asked John von Neumann to deliver an address on December 2, 1954, on the occasion of the first public showing of the NORC.

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THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

Copyright ©; 1981 by the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. Used with permission.

The NORC and Problems in High-Speed Computing

JOHN VON NEUMANN

(Image Omitted: Reprinted, with permission, from the Collected Works of John von Neumann, Volume X, pages 238 247, New York, Pergamon, 1963. Keywords: NORC, computing speed.

CR Category. 1.2. 0164- 1239/81/030274-279/0)

Foreword

In the fall of 1954 the Watson Scientific Laboratory of IBM announced the completion of the Naval Ordnance Research Calculator -- the NORC. As its name implies, this machine was designed and constructed for the U.S. Navy's Bureau of Ordnance by members of the Watson Laboratory under the engineering direction of Byron L. Havens and the overall direction of Wallace J. Eckert, the laboratory's chief. It was moved from New York to the Naval Proving Ground at Dahlgren, Virginia, in 1955.

This device was built at a time when IBM had just finished and delivered about twenty of its 701 computers and was a further attempt by IBM to explore the directions in which to move in the new and uncharted field of electronic computers. It was very fitting that Thomas J. Watson, Sr., should have asked John von Neumann to deliver an address on December 2, 1954, on the occasion of the first public showing of the NORC.

It was only two years after the advent of the IBM 701 that the NORC appeared and yet the NORC was faster than the 701 by a factor of five. At the time this seemed almost miraculous, especially since the 701 was already somewhere between 10 and 100 times faster than the first electronic machine, the ENIAC, which, in turn, was somewhere between 100 and 1000 times faster than any preceding machine. These numbers help to show the enormous rate of change of the computer field in the decade between the advents of the ENIAC and the NORC. The state of the art was changing at such a rate that no one at that time could determine the critical parameters that underlay the field or assess what would be the real needs of society for computers and computing.

At that time it was generally believed that the scientist was to be the chief gainer from the new tool; as we have seen, this was not the case. Even though the computer is today absolutely essential to the scientist, it is used virtually everywhere and impinges importantly on our daily lives in so many diverse ways that it is difficult to enumerate them or even to be aware of them. Moreover, it is very clear that we still have not determined the critical parameters that delineate the computer field -- and that no one should have the temerity to attempt this task at present.

It was very characteristic of von Neumann's genius that he urged the United States to continue pushing forward as far as it could go. In closing his tank he said: "It is very important ... to write specifications simply calling for the most advanced machine which is possibl...