History of Supercomputing

Panel 4 -- 1956-1960

timeline only

Computers matured in the late 1950s. Vacuum tubes were becoming a thing of the past, and more input and output devices were being developed, freeing researchers from days of watching lights and flipping switches. Modems allowed researchers to access computers from their offices. Increasingly, some computers were designed and dedicated to specific applications.

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1956 MANIAC 2 built at Los Alamos; DEUCE (fixed head drum memory); John McCarthy-MIT Artificial Intelligence Department
1957 IBM introduces RAMAC: random-access method of accounting & control - hard disk, John Backus - IBM first Fortran compiler

In 1957 GEORGE, in operation concurrent with CHLOE, was the last "homemade" digital computer at Argonne. A 40-binary-digit, parallel, asynchronous, modified two-address, fixed-point machine, GEORGE had 4096 word memory, paper tape input and output, 4 magnetic tape units for internal memory storage, a 72-character/line printer, 1024 character output unit, and 1024-character input unit.

CHLOE: logic panel, Hodges, Chloe scanner, plotter

photo Overall view of GEORGE. In foreground is the computer console containing from left the console output typewriter, input keyboard, the operating console and the perforated tape input readers. In background are (from left) the core memory unit, the arithmetic and control unit and the wide magnetic tape auxiliary storage unit. Herbert Gray (left) and Lawrence Melson are shown.

paper tape Output tape bin from computer GEORGE, showing perforated paper tape output coming from punch. Loretta Kassel's hands.

1957 saw the transition (generally everywhere) from homebuilts to commercial (IBM 704). Argonne's 704, purchased same year GEORGE was completed, was one of the largest machines at the time, and was run 24 hr/day, 7 days/week

1958 Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Musasino-1: 1st parametron computer, Jack Kilby-First ntegrated circuit prototype; Robert Noyce works separately on IC's, NEC 1101 & 1102
1959 Bell's modem data phone, Robert Noyce & Gordon Moore file patent for iIntegrated Circuit for Fairchild Semiconductor Corp., IBM 7090-fully transistorized
1960 Paul Baran at Rand develops packet-switching, NEAC 2201, Whirlwind-air traffic control, Livermore Advanced Research Computer (LARC), Control Data Corportation CDC 1604, First major international computer conference

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