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Browse Prior Art Database

Anecdotes: A Critical Incident

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129619D
Original Publication Date: 1989-Jun-30
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-06
Document File: 1 page(s) / 13K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

Lawrence W. Langley: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

Vatell Inc. Christiansburg, Virginia USA This story was told to me when I was a ";shavetail"; test equipment design engineer at IBM, Endicott in 1956. I believe it to be true, but have never verified it with any of the people involved. In the early 1950s, IBM was in head-to-head competition with Sperry- Rand for the giant North American Air Defense Computer contract. Sperry had offered mercury delay lines as the main memory in its computer, and IBM had proposed magnetic drums. The government had some concerns about the reliability of each of these, and sent a high- powered delegation to both companies to gather information on this subject. On the day the government representatives visited IBM, a junior engineer named Archie Furr was given the task of demonstrating the magnetic drum storage to assembled high ranking military officers, procurement people, and IBM executives. Archie took the covers off the machine and showed how the drum, rotating at 12,500 rpm, received magnetic impulses from the write heads, and how the heads produced signals representing the stored information. He hooked up an oscilloscope to demonstrate the signal shapes and timing.

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THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

Copyright ©; 1989 by the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. Used with permission.

Anecdotes: A Critical Incident

Lawrence W. Langley

Vatell Inc. Christiansburg, Virginia USA This story was told to me when I was a "shavetail" test equipment design engineer at IBM, Endicott in 1956. I believe it to be true, but have never verified it with any of the people involved.

In the early 1950s, IBM was in head-to-head competition with Sperry- Rand for the giant North American Air Defense Computer contract. Sperry had offered mercury delay lines as the main memory in its computer, and IBM had proposed magnetic drums. The government had some concerns about the reliability of each of these, and sent a high- powered delegation to both companies to gather information on this subject.

On the day the government representatives visited IBM, a junior engineer named Archie Furr was given the task of demonstrating the magnetic drum storage to assembled high ranking military officers, procurement people, and IBM executives. Archie took the covers off the machine and showed how the drum, rotating at 12,500 rpm, received magnetic impulses from the write heads, and how the heads produced signals representing the stored information. He hooked up an oscilloscope to demonstrate the signal shapes and timing.

One of the visitors expressed concern about the delicacy of adjustment of the head relative to t...