What Happened Today, October 19th

 
NBS Authorizes SWAC Project

The National Bureau of Standards authorized construction of its Standards Western Automatic Computer. The machine, which would be built at the Institute for Numerical Analysis in Los Angeles, had an objective to compute using already-developed technology. This was in contrast to the machine’s cousin, the Standards Eastern Automatic Computer, which tested components and systems for computer standards.

What Happened This Week

 
Steve Jobs Introduces NeXT Computer

Steve Jobs unveils the NeXT, the computer he conceived of after moving on from Apple Computer Inc., which he had founded with Steve Wozniak. Although the NeXT ultimately failed in the marketplace, it introduced several features new to personal computers, including an optical storage disc, a built-in digital signal processor that allowed voice recognition, and object-oriented languages that simplified programming. It's relatively high price of $6,500 limited sales. NeXT Computer Inc. eventually became NeXT Software Inc. and then was bought by Apple in 1997.

 
Computer Pioneer Burks Born

A principal designer of the ENIAC, Arthur Burks, was born. Burks -- who was born in Duluth, Minnesota, and educated at DePauw University and the University of Michigan -- did extensive work on the ENIAC, the machine designed at the University of Pennsylvania’s Moore School and completed in 1946. After working with J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly on the ENIAC, Burks moved on to Princeton University, where he helped John von Neumann develop his computer at the Institute for Advanced Studies.

The BCS Crest
The BCS Crest
 
British Computer Society is Founded

October 14 is the anniversary of the British Computer Society (BCS), founded in 1957. BCS is one of the several international societies that have an affiliate membership relationship with the IEEE Computer Society. Since 1984 BCS has operated under a Royal Charter which requires it to: "...promote the study and practice of Computing and to advance knowledge therein for the benefit of the public."

 
First FORTRAN Reference Manual is Released

The first FORTRAN reference manual is released on October 15, 1956, six months before the first compiler's release. Only 60 pages long, with large print and wide margins, that first programming language was miniscule by today's standard. The original FORTRAN development team comprised John Backus, Sheldon Best, Richard Goldberg, Lois Mitchell Haibt, Harlan Herrick, Grace Mitchell, Robert Nelson, Roy Nutt, David Sayre, Peter Sheridan, and Irving Ziller.

 
CDC Introduces 1604 Computer

Control Data Corp. released its model 1604 computer, the first in the line from the company formed by a group that left Sperry Rand Corp., led by William Norris. The 1604 was the most powerful computer in its day, designed by Seymour Cray, who would go on to a career in building supercomputers. Applications of the CDC 1604 included processing data in real time, controlling weapons systems, solving large-scale scientific problems, and commercial applications.

 
IBM Cuts Back Personal Computer Line

IBM Corp. announced it would be cutting back its line of personal computers from nine models to four. It also notified the public of several new models and said it would bring back the brand name many connected to the company, the IBM PC. The plan for consolidating IBM’s personal computer production was to have four divisions: IBM PC for commercial desktop machines, IBM PC Server for larger computers used on networks, Thinkpad for portables, and Aptiva for the home market.

Cover of last Newsweek print issue
Cover of last Newsweek print issue
 
Newsweek Announces Transition to Online-Only Format

As print-news readership slowly dwindled and online audiences for news and entertainment skyrocketed, the publishing industry faced a major inflection point. Many magazine publishers abandoned print versions of their journalistic offerings, and went almost entirely digital. After nearly 8 decades, and recent financial losses that forced its sale to Sidney Harman, Newsweek made the announcement that the last printing of their magazine would be on December 31, 2012. In a nod to online worlds of communication and news gathering, the cover of the last issue featured a simple title: “#LASTPRINTISSUE.”

 
NBS Authorizes SWAC Project

The National Bureau of Standards authorized construction of its Standards Western Automatic Computer. The machine, which would be built at the Institute for Numerical Analysis in Los Angeles, had an objective to compute using already-developed technology. This was in contrast to the machine’s cousin, the Standards Eastern Automatic Computer, which tested components and systems for computer standards.