Evelyn Berezin

Evelyn Berezin

2015 Fellow

For her early work in computer design and a lifetime of entrepreneurial activity

Achieving a goal provides immediate satisfaction; the process of achieving a goal is a lasting pleasure. Evelyn Berezin

Biography

Evelyn Berezin was born in New York City in 1925. With a scholarship at NYU, she received her BA in physics in 1945 and an Atomic Energy Commission fellowship for graduate study at NYU in 1946. In 1951, she joined a start-up company, Elecom, based in Brooklyn, which had started to build digital computers. From 1951 to 1969, she worked at a number of companies designing a variety of special-purpose computer systems. The systems built until about 1957 had severe limitations, due primarily to the unreliability of the vacuum tubes used in their construction and the use of magnetic drum-based memory systems, which were limited both in their memory capacity and speed of memory storage and retrieval.

Transistors became available in about 1957-58 and the breadth of capability suddenly expanded substantially. Computers were much faster and communication systems started to become particularly important. Berezin, then at Teleregister in Connecticut, designed one of the largest systems built at that time: a passenger reservations system for United Airlines, delivered in about 1962. The design of the central system (three independent, linked processors) served 60 cities throughout the United States with a one-second response time and with no central system failures in 11 years of operation.

Getting to a high level in any technical company at this time was a very rare occurrence for a woman, but getting into management was almost impossible. Starting a company appeared to be the only way to get to manage a company at the frontier of computer technology. Evidence for this claim can be found in a 1976 publication by BusinessWeek magazine of the 100 most senior businesswomen in the United States. There was just one woman who was president of a technical company then-Berezin-and her company was named Redactron, a new maker of word processors.

Redactron moved into its first building in December 1969. Some technologies that were needed to make a word processor were delayed, so Redactron engineers had to design and manufacture some of these themselves - much more of the system than they had planned - including a custom 13 IC MOS chip set, one of the first such systems implemented in the world. Redactron's first word processors were delivered in September 1971-one and a half years after the company was started with only nine people. A worldwide marketing organization was set up as well as a service organization, and Redactron grew. In 1975, it employed just under 500 people. Redactron was sold in 1976 to the Burroughs Corporation.

Berezin has served on Boards of a number of public companies, including CIGNA, Koppers Co., Datapoint, and Standard Microsystems. Additionally, she has worked as Advisor or Board member with about 20 start-up technology companies. She received an Honorary Doctorate from both Adelphi University and Eastern Michigan University and was on the Board of Directors of Brookhaven National Laboratory. Berezin is currently on the Board of Directors of the Stony Brook (University) Foundation, and is a member of the Oversight Committee of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at NYU.