What Happened on April 5th

Computer Pioneer Cuthbert Hurd Born

Cuthbert Hurd is born. Hurd was a mathematician hired directly by IBM President Thomas Watson Sr. in early 1949 and was only the second IBM employee hired with a PhD at the time. A figure generally unknown to history, Hurd quietly encouraged IBM upper management to enter into the computer field, convincing them in the early 1950s that a market for scientific computers existed after a cross-country sales trip revealed pent-up demand. At the time, IBM enjoyed large profits from its traditional punch card accounting business so the change was difficult for IBM to make internally. Hurd's first great success was in selling 10 of IBM's 701 computers, its first commercial scientific machine, which rented for $18,000 a month. Shortly thereafter, he became manager of the IBM team that invented and developed the FORTRAN programming language under John Backus. Hurd died on May 22, 1996 in Portola Valley, California.