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Operator at console of UNIVAC I, c. 1955
Credit: Remington-Rand Corporation

Production Machines

The initial development of the electronic digital computer was by the military-funded academic and research establishment. The main focus of innovation and production soon moved to the commercial sector not only because of the large potential market but also because of the money and resources required. Building computers started to be a money-making business in the mid 1950’s. Shown here is a mercury memory delay line memory from the Univac I, the first commercial electronic digital computer ever made. The Bendix G15 and LGP-30 represent two other early and influential drum-based computers. The Electrodata arithmetic unit shows a small section of a large mainframe computer system of the time. With the Cold War in full swing, the SAGE computer was developed to detect Russian manned bombers armed with nuclear weapons. SAGE computers represented the state-of-the-art in late 1950s computer technology: each installation had over 50,000 vacuum tubes, weighed 250 tons, and consumed three million watts of power—enough to power 2,000 homes.

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