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Anecdotes: "Offense Calculator" Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129895D
Original Publication Date: 1995-Sep-30
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-07
Document File: 1 page(s) / 15K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

Eric A. Weiss: AUTHOR [+2]


PO Box 537 Kailua, HI 96734

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Copyright ©; 1995 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Anecdotes: "Offense Calculator"

Eric A. Weiss

PO Box 537 Kailua, HI 96734

This cartoon, drawn in 1952 by Robert W. Bemer, then a newly hired employee of Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, graphically illustrates how computers were viewed at the time by some of their future users. Its very title, "Offense Calculator," recalls the sequence of the name changes of the IBM 701. Some explanation, starting in 1951, is needed.

Early in January 1951, Thomas J. Watson Jr. made the bold and risky decision that IBM would design and build its first product-line electronic stored-program computer, later called the IBM 701. IBM's Early Computers tells the story of the decision and explains the choice of the original name.

To Thomas Watson Sr., however and to skeptics in the Sales and Future Demands organizations, the decision was best explained as a special undertaking in support of the war effort, an interpretation artfully emphasized in the name chosen soon afterward for the machine: the "Defense Calculator." Lockheed, in Burbank, California, placed one of the first orders and received delivery of the third IBM 701 in April 1953.2-4 In the year between order and delivery, Lockheed computer people, whose biggest previous machine had been an IBM CPC,*1

conjectured and joked about the as-yet- unseen Defense Calculator. On April 23, , almost exactly a year before delivery, Bemer, a recent hire from Rand, while preparing to make airframe structure calculations on the new machine, drew, signed, and circulated the above cartoon. The puns illustrate the major novelties of the machine, the concerns of the potential users, and the...