Skip to main content

Engineering Research Associates

 Organization

Found in 4 Collections and/or Records:

Engineering Research Associates, 1945-1952

 Series
Identifier: 1901-II.
Scope and Content: The discovery documents shed some light on the history of Engineering Research Associates, which has always been shrouded in secrecy because of the firm's involvement with the Navy's cryptographic program. The documents show that as early as 1943 the Navy recognized that the computer, with its ability to rapidly manipulate data streams, was a natural tool for encoding and decoding messages. The Navy's most successful wartime unit was led by Commander Howard T. Engstrom, in peacetime a professor of mathematics at Yale, and Lt. Commander William C. Norris, who had been a sales engineer for Westinghouse. After the War, Norris established Engineering Research Associates with the encouragement of Secretary of the Navy Forrestal, and it was soon the most advanced computer company in the world. It developed the ATLAS, the first stored-memory digital computer.

The development of the Atlas computer is documented in great detail, including a component-by-component chronology, weekly and monthly progress reports, correspondence, memoranda and engineering notebooks of key engineering personnel Arnold Cohen, John Coombs, William Keye, and Lowell Brown. The records reflect the secrecy imposed by the Navy. The records include copies of Engineering Research Associates's contracts with the Office of Naval Research and correspondence with Dr. Mina Rees, head of the Mathematical Division at ONR, and John Curtiss, head of the Computing Division of the National Bureau of Standards. There are also copies of Engineering Research Associates reports on magnetic storage and MIT's Project Whirlwind.
Dates: 1945-1952

Engineering Research Associates, 1946-1953

 Series
Identifier: 1825-I-VI.
Scope and Content: In 1952, Remington Rand attempted to strengthen its position in the electronic data processing equipment industry by acquiring Engineering Research Associates (E.R.A.) of St. Paul, Minnesota. At that time, E.R.A. was on the cutting edge of computer technology. However, in 1957, William Norris, the firm's founder, left Sperry to form his own Company, Control Data Corporation. The E.R.A. records document (1946-1955) the negotiations which led to the Sperry-ERA merger as well as the engineering work conducted by ERA.
Dates: 1946-1953

Seymour Yuter collection of Technitrol, Inc., lawsuit records

 Collection
Identifier: 1901
Abstract: The collection consists of copies of trial records collected by Seymour C. Yuter (dates unknown), a patent attorney for Technitrol, Inc. They include documents from the interlocking suits of Technitrol v. Control Data Corp., Technitrol v. Sperry Rand, and Technitrol v. U.S.A., which came to trial between the late 1950s and the mid 1970s. The principal point at issue was, who was the inventor of the magnetic storage drum. The records provide a fascinating picture of the early history of the computer industry and trace the role played by the military in the years immediately after World War II.
Dates: 1945-1976

Sperry Rand Corporation, Engineering Research Associates (ERA) Division records

 Collection
Identifier: 2015
Abstract: Engineering Research Associates (ERA) origins can be traced to the classified World War II-era Navy project to break the German secret codes by using electronic data processing. After the war, ERA became a private sector company that did pioneering work in computer development. In 1952, it was purchased by Remington Rand. The records include the correspondence of ERA's founding engineers including William Norris and Arnold Cohen. Also included is business and technical correspondence, legal records, patents, and oral histories.
Dates: 1949-1965