Sperry Corporation, UNIVAC Division photographs and audiovisual materials1910-1989 Majority of material found within 1946-1985
- Majority of material found within 1946-1985
- Sperry Rand (Corporation). Univac Division (Organization)
105 Linear Feet
In 1950, Eckert and Mauchly sold their firm to Remington Rand, Inc, a major manufacturer of business machines, who continued development of the UNIVAC system. The first UNIVAC was delivered in March 1951 and the following year CBS television used a UNIVAC to predict the outcome of the 1952 presidential election. That same year, Remington Rand acquired Engineering Research Associates (ERA), a Minneapolis-based computer-development firm, and ERA and EMCC were consolidated to form the UNIVAC Division of Remington Rand.
In 1955, Remington Rand merged with the Sperry Corporation, and the UNIVAC Division was retained as part of the newly formed Sperry Rand Corporation. Sperry-UNIVAC operated two separate UNIVAC engineering facilities, one in Philadelphia and the other in Minneapolis-St. Paul, each producing different lines of UNIVAC computer systems. Development of commercial, scientific, and business systems was headed by the Philadelphia facility, with St. Paul focusing on government and military computers. In 1962, the Philadelphia facility moved to nearby Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, and became the UNIVAC Division World Headquarters and the UNIVAC Engineering Center (UEC).
Despite UNIVAC's early lead in computer development, Sperry-UNIVAC faced strong competition from International Business Machines (IBM). By the mid-1950s, IBM had gained a clear edge in the business computer market, which it retained for the next several decades. UNIVAC, however, continued to produce new computer systems, with a limited amount of commercial success. UNIVAC machines developed from the first generation UNIVACs with vacuum tubes and mercury delay line memory to solid state machines with drum memory, then to transistorized computers with thin film memory, and eventually to microprocessors and personal computers. In spite of mediocre performance in the commercial market, industry experts commented that UNIVAC machines were generally superior to their IBM counterparts. In addition, UNIVAC remained a major military and government contractor, supplying computers to the Armed Forces, NASA, the FAA, and the Bureau of the Census. UNIVAC real-time computers were used extensively by the Navy as missile guidance systems, and formed the core of NASA's communications network for the Apollo space project.
In 1979, the Sperry Rand Corporation was renamed the Sperry Corporation, and in 1986, Sperry Corporation was absorbed by the Burroughs Corporation, and the name changed again to the Unisys Corporation.
Scope and Content
Significant coverage is given to the early years of electronic computers, from the mid- 1940s to 1955, encompassing the formation of the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation (EMCC) and the development of the UNIVAC brand under Remington Rand Inc. A series of negatives from the EMCC contains images of BINAC and the first UNIVAC model. These negatives include close up views of computer components, such as the memory system or circuit boards, as well as overall shots. Images of ENIAC, BINAC, and UNIVAC I also exist in several historical files within the collection, and in negative files from the Remington Rand-UNIVAC years. Of particular note, are a series of images of CBS television using a UNIVAC computer to predict the 1952 presidential election.
In addition to views of computer systems, there are also a number of photographs of personnel and facilities from the mid- 1940s to 1955. Important persons shown include J. Presper Eckert, John Mauchly, and other members of the ENIAC team, as well as noted computer programming pioneer Grace Hopper; individuals are photographed in both candid shots and posed portraits. The collection also contains photographs of the EMCC building in Philadelphia, as well as the Remington Rand-UNIVAC facility in northeast Philadelphia.
The bulk of the collection dates to the Sperry-UNIVAC years, from 1955 to 1986, covering both the Philadelphia and St. Paul branches of the UNIVAC division, with a small amount of material from a UNIVAC manufacturing plant in Bristol, Tennessee. Two separate photographers' negative files contain thousands of images of UNIVAC computer systems spanning three decades, including the UNIVAC I series, 1100 series, 9000 series, series 90, solid state computers, real-time computers, military computers, UNIVAC LARC, and the Sperry personal computer. Nearly every computer system developed by UNIVAC is represented in this collection.
While computer systems make up the largest portion of the 1955 to 1986 material, the collection also contains views of UNIVAC offices and plants throughout the United States, photographs of UNIVAC training classes and public relations events, and portraits of important persons within the company. Of particular note are a number of UNIVAC educational videos and slide shows, encompassing both training in the use of UNIVAC systems and marketing training for UNIVAC salespeople.
Finally, the collection holds a small amount of material from Sperry divisions outside of UNIVAC, including Sperry Gyroscope Flight and Defense Systems, and Remington Rand office equipment.
Research value: This collection documents the first forty years of computer history, from the invention of ENIAC, the first electronic digital computer, through the development of the scientific computer, the business computer, the supercomputer, and finally the personal computer. The collection contains strong documentation of early computers and the individuals responsible for pioneering computer technology, and will be of great interest to researchers studying the history of computing, the history of the modern business workplace, mid-twentieth century military and NASA computers, early computer design, and human-computer interface design. Researchers studying twentieth century marketing techniques and employee training will find the marketing and educational material in this collection to be a rich resource. In addition, the images in this collection will be a valuable resource for those taking a hands-on approach to history, including model builders and hobbyists restoring computers of the past, and film-makers and set designers recreating office workspaces of the second half of the twentieth century.
Existence and Location of Copies
Litigators may not view the collection without approval.
Some items in this collection have been separated for future conservation work and are not available for research.
Film material is housed in cold storage and must reacclimate prior to viewing. Please contact the Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department at least 48 hours in advance of research visit.
Language of Materials
- Gray, George T. and Smith, Ronald Q. 2004. "Sperry Rand's First-Generation Computers, 1955-1960: Hardware and Software." IEEE Annals of the History of Computing.
- Lukoff, Herman. From Dits to Bits: A Personal History of the Electronic Computer. Portland, Or.: Robotics Press, 1979.
- Norberg, Arthur L. Computers and Commerce: A Study of Technology and Management at Eckert-Mauchly Computer Company, Engineering Research Associates, and Remington Rand, 1946-1957. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2005.
- Gray, George. "The UNIVAC File Computer," Unisys History Newsletter. Volume 2, Number 2. December 1993 (revised 1999)
The following item has been transferred from this collection to the Hagley Library Published Collections Department: "Guidance Computer for USAF Titan: Report of Progress in Film Memory Engineering", 1959.
- BINAC (Computer)
- Computer hardware
- Computer industry
- Computer storage devices
- ENIAC (Computer)
- Eckert, J. Presper (John Presper), 1919-1995
- Electronic circuits
- Electronic data processing
- Hopper, Grace Murray, 1906-1992
- LARC (Computer)
- Magnetic cores
- Mauchly, John W. (John William), 1907-1980
- Remington Typewriter Company
- Solid state electronics
- Sperry Rand (Corporation)
- Tabulating machines
- Typewriter industry
- Univac computer
- Sperry Rand (Corporation). Univac Division (Organization)
Finding Aid & Administrative Information
- Sperry Corporation, UNIVAC Division photographs and audiovisual materials
- Eric Rosenzweig and Lisa Kruczek
- 2012, 2015
- Description rules:
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description:
- Script of description: