What Happened Today, December 4th

Cray X-MP
Cray X-MP
 
Cray X-MP Supercomputer Begins Operation

The Cray X-MP/48 started operation at the San Diego Supercomputer Center. The X-MP was popular for generating computer graphics, especially for movies. It nearly doubled the operating speed of competing machines with its parallel processing system, which ran at 420 million floating-point operations per second, or megaflops. An even faster speed could be achieved by arranging two Crays to work together on different parts of the same problem. Other applications included the defense industry and scientific research.

What Happened This Week

 
Microsoft Ships Internet Explorer 2.0

Microsoft Corp. shipped Internet Explorer 2.0, starting a browser war with the popular Netscape Navigator. Netscape Communications Corp. had had a virtual monopoly on World Wide Web browsers since the infancy of the web. The Netscape Navigator and Communicator browsers serve as a format for viewing and creating World Wide Web pages, as well as participating in newsgroups and sending e-mail. Microsoft promotes its Internet Explorer with specific mention of its privacy and encryption.

 
Herbert Bright, Developer of One of the First FORTRAN User Programs, Dies at 67

Herbert Bright, developer of one of the first FORTRAN user programs (and consequently, the first error message), dies at 67. Bright had been a promoter of security through data encryption, as well as a research engineer at AT&T Laboratories. He also held various executive offices in the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).

The Atari Pong
The Atari Pong
 
Atari Announces Pong Game

Atari Corporation announces Pong, an early video game popular both at home and at video arcades. In Pong, players were represented by paddles that could move up and down to try to deflect a ball and keep it from passing into their goal. Despite simplistic graphics, Pong started a craze. Atari, founded by Nolan Bushnell, sold video games as well as computers on which to play the games.

IBM 7090 Analysis and Computation Center
IBM 7090 Analysis and Computation Center
 
IBM Delivers 7090 Mainframe Computers

The first two IBM 7090 computers are delivered. Along with the faster version, which IBM released three years later, the series was a popular family of transistorized mainframes. Designed for scientific research and large-scale technological application, the computers were used in such projects as the Mercury and Gemini space flights and the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System.

The Colossus team in 1981. A.W.M. Coombs, T.H. Flowers, A.C. Lynch, W.W. Chandler, N.T. Thurlow, H.W. Fensom
The Colossus team in 1981. A.W.M. Coombs, T.H. Flowers, A.C. Lynch, W.W. Chandler, N.T. Thurlow, H.W. Fensom
 
Colossus Team Member Chandler Born

W.W. Chandler is born in Bridport, England. He obtained his BSc from London University in 1938 by private study while working as a telephone engineer at the British Post Office Research Department. During the war he was responsible for the installation and maintenance of the Colossus at Bletchley Park. The Colossus represented the first electronic computer, however it was programmed by a mechanical switchboard. It was used to crack the German Fish codes which guarded the highest levels of German communication. Winston Churchill characterized the Bletchley Park team as the geese who laid the golden eggs but never cackled.

After the war, Chandler participated in the development and installation of the MOSAIC computer and worked on optical character recognition. He died on September 11, 1989.

Federico Faggin
Federico Faggin
 
Microprocessor Co-Inventor Faggin Born

Dr. Federico Faggin is born in Vicenza, Italy. He graduated from Instituto Industriale at Vicenza in 1960. He received a doctorate in physics from the University of Padua in 1965. In 1968 he came to the US to join Fairchild in Palo Alto where he developed the original silicon gate technology. The 4004 project brought him to Intel in 1970. In 1974 he founded Zilog, Inc. which produced a new chip design for the fledgling personal computer industry. After a short stint with Exxon, he co-founded Cygnet Technologies in 1982 and Synaptics, Inc. in 1986 where he was president. He is a recipient of the Marconi Fellowship and IEEE W. Wallace McDowell awards.

NORC as completed at the Watson Laboratory in 1954. Byron L. Havens, the chief engineer, is in the foreground
NORC as completed at the Watson Laboratory in 1954. Byron L. Havens, the chief engineer, is in the foreground
 
US Navy Dedicates NORC Machine

The US Navy dedicates its Naval Ordnance Research Calculator (NORC) at the Naval Surface Weapons Center in Dahlgren, Virginia. John von Neumann was the keynote speaker. The machine was built at the Watson Scientific Computing Laboratory under the direction of Wallace Eckert.

This computer was in demand by many organizations, including two different Navy facilities and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. Physicist Edward Teller had been trying to receive NORC arguing that the LLNL's nuclear calculations were more important than Dahlgren's ballistic calculations. The Navy won and NORC was delivered to Dahlgren, following the Mark II (1948) and the Mark III (1951).

CDC 7600
CDC 7600
 
CDC Announces 7600 Supercomputer

Control Data Corporation announces its 7600 model, considered by some to be the first true supercomputer. The CDC 7600 calculated at a speed of nearly 40 megaflops. Seymour Cray designed this computer, as well as its predecessor, the 6600 that was popular with scientific researchers, and a successor, the 8600, which the company never marketed.

John Backus
John Backus
 
John Backus Born

John Warner Backus is born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1949 he graduated from Columbia University and immediately joined IBM as a programmer. Backus led a team that created FORTRAN, the first successful high-level programming language which became commercially available in 1957. In 1959 he invented the Backus Naur Form (BNF), a standard notation to describe the syntax of a high level programming language. His third major contribution to computer science was to develop a functional programming language called FP, which advocates a mathematical approach to programming. Backus received the IEEE Computer Society Pioneer Award in 1980, and in 1994 was awarded the National Academy of Engineers’ Draper Award.

Cray X-MP
Cray X-MP
 
Cray X-MP Supercomputer Begins Operation

The Cray X-MP/48 started operation at the San Diego Supercomputer Center. The X-MP was popular for generating computer graphics, especially for movies. It nearly doubled the operating speed of competing machines with its parallel processing system, which ran at 420 million floating-point operations per second, or megaflops. An even faster speed could be achieved by arranging two Crays to work together on different parts of the same problem. Other applications included the defense industry and scientific research.