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The BITSAVERS.ORG Documents Library: UNIVAC

UNIVAC is the name of a line of electronic digital stored-program computers starting with the products of the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation. Later the name was applied to a division of the Remington Rand company and successor organizations. The descendants of the UNIVAC line continue today as products of the Unisys company. UNIVAC is an acronym for UNIVersal Automatic Computer.



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UNIVAC is the name of a line of electronic digital stored-program computers starting with the products of the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation. Later the name was applied to a division of the Remington Rand company and successor organizations. The descendants of the UNIVAC line continue today as products of the Unisys company. UNIVAC is an acronym for UNIVersal Automatic Computer.

J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly built the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) at the University of Pennsylvania's Moore School of Electrical Engineering between 1943 and 1946. A 1946 patent rights dispute with the university led Eckert and Mauchly to depart the Moore School to form the Electronic Control Company, later renamed Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation (EMCC), based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. That company first built a computer called BINAC (BINary Automatic Computer) for Northrop Aviation (which was little used, or perhaps not at all). Afterwards began the development of UNIVAC. UNIVAC was first intended for the Bureau of the Census, which paid for much of the development, and then was put in production.

With the death of EMCC's chairman and chief financial backer Harry L. Straus in a plane crash on October 25, 1949, EMCC was sold to typewriter maker Remington Rand on February 15, 1950. Eckert and Mauchly now reported to Leslie Groves, the retired army general who had managed the Manhattan Project. Remington Rand had its own calculating machine lab in Norwalk, Connecticut, and later bought Engineering Research Associates (ERA) in St. Paul, Minnesota. In 1953 or 1954 Remington Rand merged their Norwalk tabulating machine division, the ERA "scientific" computer division, and the UNIVAC "business" computer division into a single division under the UNIVAC name. This severely annoyed those who had been with ERA and with the Norwalk laboratory.

The most famous UNIVAC product was the UNIVAC I mainframe computer of 1951, which became known for predicting the outcome of the U.S. presidential election the following year. This incident is particularly infamous because the computer predicted an Eisenhower landslide when traditional pollsters all called it for Adlai Stevenson. The numbers were so skewed that CBS's news boss in New York, Mickelson, decided the computer was in error and refused to allow the prediction to be read. Instead they showed some staged theatrics that suggested the computer was not responsive, and announced it was predicting 8-7 odds for an Eisenhower win (the actual prediction was 100-1). When the predictions proved true and Eisenhower won a landslide within 1% of the initial prediction, Charles Collingwood, the on-air announcer, embarrassingly announced that they had covered up the earlier prediction.

In 1955 Remington Rand merged with Sperry Corporation to become Sperry Rand. The UNIVAC division of Remington Rand was renamed the Univac division of Sperry Rand. General Douglas MacArthur was chosen to head the company. In the 1960s, UNIVAC was one of the eight major American computer companies in an industry then referred to as "IBM and the seven dwarfs" — a play on Snow White and the seven dwarfs, with IBM, by far the largest, being cast as Snow White and the other seven as being dwarfs: Burroughs, Univac, NCR, CDC, GE, RCA and Honeywell. In the 1970s, after GE sold its computer business to Honeywell and RCA sold its to Univac, the analogy to the seven dwarfs became less apt and the remaining small firms became known as the "BUNCH" (Burroughs, Univac, NCR, Control Data, and Honeywell).

Around 1975, to assist "corporate identity" the name was changed to Sperry Univac, along with Sperry Remington, Sperry New Holland, etc. In 1978 Sperry Rand, an old fashioned conglomerate of disharmonious divisions (computers, typewriters, office furniture, hay balers, manure spreaders, gyroscopes, avionics, radar, electric razors), decided to concentrate on its computing interests and unrelated divisions were sold. The company dropped the Rand from its title and reverted back to Sperry Corporation. In 1986, Sperry Corporation merged with Burroughs Corporation to become Unisys.

Since the 1986 marriage of Burroughs and Sperry, Unisys has metamorphosed from a computer manufacturer to a computer services and outsourcing firm, competing in the same marketplace as IBM, Electronic Data Systems (EDS), and Computer Sciences Corporation. Unisys continues to design and manufacture enterprise class computers with the ClearPath and ES7000 server lines.

Original from Wikipedia

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January 13
2013
Jason Scott
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