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Tim Bergin collection of UNIVAC/ENIAC materials

1946-2014
 Collection
Accession: 2806

Abstract

The Sperry Corporation was an electronics company; its UNIVAC Division manufactured the first commercial digital computer. The Sperry UNIVAC Division has its origins in the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation (EMCC), founded in 1946 by J. Presper Eckert (1919-1995) and John W. Mauchly (1907-1980). In 1950, Eckert and Mauchly sold their firm to Remington Rand, Inc, a major business machine manufacturer, which continued developing the UNIVAC system. Thomas "Tim" J. Bergin (1940-) is an emeritus professor of computer science and information systems at American University; he was also curator/director of the Computer History Museum. Bergin obtained this collection of UNIVAC/ENIAC historical materials from other computer pioneers. The collection consists of research reports, booklets, published articles, lecture notes, and audiovisual materials that describe the development of the EDVAC, ENIAC, and UNIVAC computers. The materials are organized into five series by format: Manuals and pamphlets; Articles and reprints; Tributes and anniversary materials; Photographs and films; and Objects.

Dates

  • 1946-2014

Creator

Extent

8 Linear Feet

Biographical Note

Thomas "Tim" J. Bergin (1940-) is an emeritus professor of computer science and information systems at American University. Bergin graduated from the University of Maryland College Park, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree. He then attended American University, where he graduated with a Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees. Bergin's career began in 1960 with military service in United States Army, which he ended in 1963. From 1966 to 1982, he was a systems manager at the United States Veterans Administration in Washington D.C. He started at American University in 1982 as a computer science professor and curator/director of the Computer History Museum.

In 1996, Bergin served as historian for the Association of Computer Machinery (ACM) 50th Anniversary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The program's history track had six sessions, and as chair Bergin introduced the topic and the speakers for each session. There he met Armand Adams (1917-), a retired electrical engineer who had been the chief engineer at the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation. Adams had worked for the UNIVAC Division in public relations, and was retired from Unisys Corporation. Later that same year, Bergin and Adams served on the program committee for the Army's 50th Anniversary of Computing. Adams donated materials to the Computer History Museum, and these materials remained with Bergin upon his retirement. Bergin obtained other historical materials from several computer pioneers.

Historical Note

The Sperry Corporation was an electronics company; its UNIVAC Division manufactured the first commercial digital computer. The Sperry UNIVAC Division has its origins in the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation (EMCC), founded in 1946 by J. Presper Eckert (1919-1995) and John W. Mauchly (1907-1980). Eckert and Mauchly worked under contract with the U.S. Army's Ordnance Department to develop Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer (ENIAC), the first electronic digital computer. Shortly after the construction of ENIAC, the firm began improving on the ENIAC design, which led to the creation of the Binary Automatic Computer (BINAC), and then the Universal Automatic Computer (UNIVAC), the first commercial digital computer.

In 1950, Eckert and Mauchly sold their firm to Remington Rand, Inc, a major manufacturer of business machines, which continued the 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. 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; in 1986, Sperry Corporation was absorbed by the Burroughs Corporation, and the name changed again to the Unisys Corporation.

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of research reports, booklets, published articles, lecture notes, and audiovisual materials that describe the development of the EDVAC, ENIAC, and UNIVAC computers. The materials are organized into five series by format: Manuals and pamphlets; Articles and reprints; Tributes and anniversary materials; Photographs and films; and Objects.

The Manuals and pamphlets series provides technical and instructional information about the ENIAC, UNIVAC, SWAC, and LARC computing systems. There are technical manuals, operational manuals, lecture materials, and informational booklets/pamphlets. Much of the materials are intended for educational use; the manuals date from 1946 to 1968.

The Articles and reprints series mainly covers the history of computing, the Sperry Rand Corporation, and the UNIVAC computer. The materials date from 1945 to 1968. Of particular interest is a lecture by J.W. Mauchly and "A Complete EDVAC Computing System," prepared by J. Presper Eckert in 1947. Bergin prepared Eckert's description of the EDVAC computer for re-publication in 2014, titled "What is a computer? An Answer from the Past," which appeared in the IEEE Annals of the History of Computing. The collection includes the original documents of Eckerts with hand-drawn diagrams, as well as Bergin's research notes and correspondence with editors. Additionally, there is documentation related to the CBS coverage of the Eisenhower/Stevenson election on November 4, 1952. Earlier that year, the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) arranged to use a UNIVAC to predict the outcome of the presidential election between General Dwight D. Eisenhower (Rep.) and Senator Adlai Stevenson (Dem.) based on statistical samples of election returns. The first computer printout, at the early time of 8:30, predicted a win for Eisenhower. This was not expected, so it was not reported. CBS correspondent Charles Collingwood came on the air later that night and confessed that UNIVAC had made that prediction, but CBS had not aired it. Documentation includes hand-printed notes for the CBS broadcast, a Westinghouse radio script, advertisements highlighting the output, a "Report to the West" typescript by Charles Collingwood, and a paper about UNIVAC's prediction written by A.F. Draper of the Remington Rand Laboratory that explains how UNIVAC employees approached the prediction and how the system processed the data. There are also follow-up materials for the 1956 election, an advertisement encouraging people to watch CBS after they cast their vote and an "insider's look" at UNIVAC to predict the 1956 election by an unknown author.

The Tributes and anniversary materials series primarily includes commemorative booklets about the history of ENIAC and innovations in computer technology. The booklets were released, marking an anniversary of a significant information technology event. Between 1943 and 1951, John W. Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert and their associates at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania built six of the world's first electronic digital computers. Since then, the Moore School of Electrical Engineering is often considered the birthplace of the computer industry. There are a number of publications from the Moore School commemorating the ENIAC computer. The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) is a professional membership group for scientific and educational computing. One of ACM's major annual events is Computing Week. In 1996, the conference celebrated the 50th anniversary of EINAC. Bergin chaired a six-session series on computer history. There is an autographed conference program and conference planning documents. There is also a booklet from the American Univac Users Association (AUUA) commemorating the society's 25th anniversary in 1980.

The Photographs and films series depicts equipment, facilities, and employees. There are two employee group portraits dated 1948 and 1949. One is labeled "The Original BINAC Crew"; those pictured include J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly, among others. There is also a portrait of J.P. Eckert, as well as an image of him leading others on a tour of the Blue Bell laboratory. There are other images of staff giving visitors tours or demonstrations of the facilities and equipment. Several images depict the production shop, many of which include workers manufacturing and testing computer equipment. There are images of computer equipment, some of which are identified; some include men or women posing as office workers using the equipment. There is one small set of photographs that show a large computer being delivered to an office building on a flatbed truck, being attached to a crane, and workers hoisting the equipment up the side of the building using the crane. Most of the photographs are not dated; however, they appear to be from around the 1950s and 1960s. There are also five motion picture films about computers and computing featuring Sperry UNIVAC equipment.

The Objects series consists of three computer modules, four metal magnetic tape reels, a prototype of a disc file, and a Remington Rand brand plate. The UNIVAC computer modules are metal chassis with circuits, wires, and vacuum tubes, which as a unit are large and heavy. The disc file prototype was never manufactured, as the magnetic tape came out beforehand and rendered it obsolete. The UNIVAC disc file would have had the storage capacity of a megabyte, and the disks would have been about six feet in diameter.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

Language of Materials

English


Additional Information

Related Names

Creator

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Title:
Tim Bergin collection of UNIVAC/ENIAC materials
Status:
Author:
Laurie Sather
Date:
2022
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
English
Script of description:
Latin

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

Contact:
PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA
302-658-2400