History of Supercomputing

Panel 3 -- 1950-1955

timeline only

DOE researchers pushed the state of the art from the beginning, from building their own computers, to trying serial number one of various commercial models. Computers had been in existence only a little over a decade, but already scientists were pushing for faster systems.


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1950 Alan Turing-Test of Machine Intelligence, Univac I (US Census Bureau)

1951 William Shockley invents the Junction Transistor

1952 Illiac I, Univac I at Livermore predicts 1952 election, MANIAC built at Los Alamos, AVIDAC built at Argonne

AVIDAC (Argonne's Version of the Institute's Digital Automatic Computer) was J.C. Chu's version of Von Neumann's stored program computer. AVIDAC could solve problems in 20 minutes that might take 2 mathematicians three years with an electronic adding machine. This electronic digital computer, built by the lab in 1951, could add two 130H-decimal H-digit numbers at the rate of about 25,000 additions a second, and it multiplied two such numbers at a rate of about 2,000 multiplications a second. Its memory unit used 40 cathode ray tubes to store information. The memory and arithmetic units contained about 3,000 vacuum tubes and were housed in a package 2 1/2 feet wide by 12 feet long by 8 feet high. AVIDAC was used to facilitate the solution of mathematical problems of Lab scientists engaged in reactor engineering and theoretical physics research work.

1953 Edvac, IBM 701

1954 IBM 650 (first mass-produced computer), FORTRAN developed by John Backus
ORACLE-Oak Ridge Automated Computer And Logical Engine was built by Oak Ridge and Argonne staff

Designed by Chu and his engineers, ORACLE was the world's fastest computer in 1953. It multiplied 12-digit numbers in less than 0.0005 seconds, and added the numbers in 0.00000005 sec - almost twice as fast as AVIDAC. It also used 40 cathode ray tubes for storage. The building engineer had to warn the computer operators to save information to magnetic tape before he started up the air conditioning system, otherwise the power surge would wipe out the memory.

ORACLE console, testing the Arithmetic unit, systems staff, operators, tape drive
1955 Texas Instruments introduces the silicon transistor, Univac II introduced

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