Sperry-UNIVAC recordsCreation: 1874-1995
The Sperry Corporation was an electronics company and the 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), the developers of ENIAC, the first electronic digital computer. THis collection consists of the administrative, financial, marketing, personnel, and legal records of Sperry UNIVAC and its predecessor companies. Also included are manuals, reports, and publications on hardware and software developed by Sperry UNIVAC; task force reports and studies for developing new products; printed materials from the Systems Programming Library Service; and biographical and historical data.
- Creation: 1874-1995
- Sperry Rand (Corporation). Univac Division (Organization)
237.25 Linear Feet
The Sperry Corporation was an electronics company and the 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), the developers of ENIAC, the first electronic digital computer. The firm began the development of the UNIVAC, the first stored memory digital computer for commercial applications. Capital shortages forced Eckert and Mauchly to sell the firm to Remington Rand, Inc., a major manfuacturer of business machines, in 1950. The first UNIVAC was delivered in March 1951. To cement its lead in computer manufacture, Remington Rand purchased the Minnesota firm of Engineering Research Associates, a computer company with ties to the defense industry, in 1952. The two acquisitions were consolidated to form the Univac Division.
As the first commercial computer system, UNIVAC made a dramatic impression on the American public. At the suggestion of Remington Rand, CBS Television used a UNIVAC to predict the outcome of the 1952 presidential election. This marvelous public relations stroke helped UNIVAC capture the imagination of the nation. During the early 1950s forty-six UNIVAC I models were sold. However, in 1954 IBM introduced its 650 computer, which was a great commercial and technological success, and Remington Rand saw its lead vanish almost overnight.
On June 30, 1955, Remington Rand merged with the Sperry Corporation, a manufacturer of guidance systems, servomechanisms, feedback controls and precision machinery, to form the Sperry Rand Corporation. After the merger, the company attempted to recapture the market with the UNIVAC II, which had a magnetic core memory and a storage capacity of between 2,000 and 10,000 characters. However, by the mid-50s the initiative had clearly passed to IBM, although many industry observers believed that the UNIVACs were technically superior to IBM computers. By the early 1960s IBM controlled 71 per cent of the computer market, with Sperry Rand a distant second at 10 per cent.
The Patent Office finally issued a patent on the ENIAC in 1964, and Sperry Rand used this to put forward a claim to basic patent rights on the electronic digital computer. Honeywell, Inc., contested this claim, and the case was tried in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota in 1971-1973. Honeywell was eventually upheld on all counts.
The Sperry Rand Corporation was renamed the Sperry Corporation in July 1979. In 1986 as the result of a hostile takeover, it was absorbed by the Burroughs Corporation, which then changed its name to Unisys Corporation.
Series I: Administrative Records
Series II: Financial Records
Series III: Legal Records
Series IV: Public Relations and Marketing Records
Series V: Employee Relations Records
Series VI: Technical Records
Series VII: Patents and Copyrights
Series VIII: New Business Ventures
Series IX: Systems Programming Library Service
Series X: Vertical Files and Historical Records
Series XI: Subsidiaries and Related Companies
Series XII: Miscellaneous Records
Scope and Content
The record group consists of the administrative, financial, marketing, and personnel records of Sperry UNIVAC and its predecessor companies; court records on various lawsuits such as the one involving Control Data, Engineering Research Associates, Honeywell, Sperry Rand, and Technitrol in addition to legal records on copyrights, patents, and trademarks; manuals, reports and publications on hardware and software developed by Sperry UNIVAC; task force reports and studies for developing new products; printed materials from the Systems Programming Library Service; and biographical and historical data. Subsidiaries and related companies are also covered here.
No restrictions on access; this collection is open for research.
Litigators may not view the collection without approval.
Literary rights retained by depositor.
Language of Materials
Deposit of Unisys Corporation, 1982
Sperry Corporation, UNIVAC Division photographs and audiovisual materials (Accession 1986.261), Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.
- Sperry Univac (Organization)
Finding Aid & Administrative Information
- Sperry-UNIVAC records
- Description rules:
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description:
- Script of description: