Skip to main content
Notice: The Library is open for research by appointment only, please visit our research services page for more information.

ATLAS (Computer)

Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Engineering Research Associates, 1945-1952

Accession: 1901Identifier: 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