This Day in History: August 17

Today: April 25, 2017
NBS Dedicates SWAC Computer
SWAC at UCLA ca. 1950

August 17, 1950

NBS Dedicates SWAC Computer

The National Bureau of Standards dedicates its Standards Western Automatic Computer (SWAC) at the Institute for Numerical Analysis in Los Angeles. Rather than testing components like its companion, the SEAC, the SWAC had an objective of computing using relatively off-the-shelf technology. It used a Williams Tube -- a modified CRT capable of modest (256 word) electrostatic bit storage -- and a magnetic drum (4,096 words) for storage. The word length was 37-bits and it could add two operands in 64 microseconds.

The SWAC performed much useful work, including searching for Mersenne prime numbers, X-ray crystallography, linear and differential equation solving and operated until December 1967.

Parts of SWAC are on display at The Computer History Museum.