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Looking At The 1950’s Super Computer, The UNIVAC

by Sean P. Aune | April 1, 2010

It’s always fun to look back into the history of computing, like looking back at the first portable computer.  But what about when computers filled entire rooms to do just one or two tasks?  What about the idea that no matter what computer you are accessing this post with, it is more powerful than one of these systems was, but without these older systems, we would have never had what you are using at this moment, so try not to laugh too hard as you look at it.

univacThe UNIVAC (UNIVersal Automatic Computer) was a series of these room-filling computers made by the Remington Rand company that weren’t exactly what you would call “multi-taskers” as there were several different variations, each with different jobs.  While they proclaimed how speedy they were by proclaiming they could read 12,000 characters a second, I’m not even sure we could even calculate how many characters are current computers read.  (Well, okay, we could, but that would inevitably lead to questions about your processor, read speeds, etc, etc, trust me, it’s a heck of a lot more than 12,000)

I will say this for the UNIVAC, for a having a physical printing printer, it actually was fairly fast.  I remember my original Okidata dot matrix printer for my Commodore 64, and believe me that after listening to that thing printing endlessly, and quite often debating if I needed to print something when everyone else in the house was asleep, I would have loved to have had something of that speed.

While I’m sure in 50 – 60 years people will look back and be amused by the fact we still used physical interfaces and don’t have brain plugs in our necks, hopefully they will at least realize the UNIVACs were huge!


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Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...


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