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UTEC and Ferut: The University of Toronto's Computation Centre

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129800D
Original Publication Date: 1994-Jun-30
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-07

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

MICHAEL R. WILLIAMS: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

Although not well known, the University of Toronto had a very early computer-development program and in 1952 was one of the first few institutions with an operable computer in North America. This article describes the university's initial attempt to build the UTEC computer and how it acquired the pioneering Ferut machine. The University of Toronto and the colleges that were its origins have been a major influence on Canada and its development since colonial times. The period around the Second World War was certainly no exception and. like many other such organizations, the university took a large part in war-related activities. While not leading directly to computer developments, many of these wartime projects required a great deal of calculation. As a consequence, by the late 1940s, there were several groups of people who not only had a background in applied mathematics and extensive experience in calculation but, more importantly, had a growing awareness of the kinds of scientific results that could be obtained from numerical calculation and the organization that was necessary to accomplish it. Typical among these projects was one involving the development of the proximity fuse for antiaircraft guns. While the concept of the proximity fuse originated elsewhere, a great deal of work was done at the University of Toronto on both the radio frequency oscillators and the battery systems that were needed. Several recent 1942 graduates of the Engineering Physics* [Footnote] *Engineering Physics was a very rigorous program invoicing extensive study of applied mathematics, physics, and engineering. Only the best students were admitted to the program, and the students always assumed that even the weakest among them would have been a top student in any regular engineering degree program. program, among them Kelly Gotlieb, were employed in this research work. The amount of calculation needed for this work was not enormous but was quite varied. After the war was over, many of the scientists involved in these projects used this experience to very good effect: the older ones to push for new, computational directions in scientific work, and the younger ones to complete their own postgraduate programs.

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THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

Copyright ©; 1994 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

UTEC and Ferut: The University of Toronto's Computation Centre

MICHAEL R. WILLIAMS

Although not well known, the University of Toronto had a very early computer-development program and in 1952 was one of the first few institutions with an operable computer in North America. This article describes the university's initial attempt to build the UTEC computer and how it acquired the pioneering Ferut machine.

The University of Toronto and the colleges that were its origins have been a major influence on Canada and its development since colonial times. The period around the Second World War was certainly no exception and. like many other such organizations, the university took a large part in war-related activities. While not leading directly to computer developments, many of these wartime projects required a great deal of calculation. As a consequence, by the late 1940s, there were several groups of people who not only had a background in applied mathematics and extensive experience in calculation but, more importantly, had a growing awareness of the kinds of scientific results that could be obtained from numerical calculation and the organization that was necessary to accomplish it.

Typical among these projects was one involving the development of the proximity fuse for antiaircraft guns. While the concept of the proximity fuse originated elsewhere, a great deal of work was done at the University of Toronto on both the radio frequency oscillators and the battery systems that were needed. Several recent 1942 graduates of the Engineering Physics*1

program, among them Kelly Gotlieb, were employed in this research work. The amount of calculation needed for this work was not enormous but was quite varied. After the war was over, many of the scientists involved in these projects used this experience to very good effect: the older ones to push for new, computational directions in scientific work, and the younger ones to complete their own postgraduate programs.

Among the group of computationally oriented professors at the University of Toronto were three who were to be pivotal in the foundation of a Computation Centre: Dean Samuel Beatty (mathematics). Professor V. G. Smith (electrical engineering), and Professor Bernard Griffith (applied mathematics). Throughout the 1945-1946 school year they met, together with a few others (as the Committee on Computing Machines), to discuss topics such as the Bush differential analyzer, other analog calculating devices, and developments in mechanical and relay-based computing machines. Beatty managed to arrange a grant of $1,000, which was used, in July 1946, to tour several American research centers to get a firsthand look at the most modern computing practices.

Because of its position as a major Canadian research cente...