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The Industrial Era

1961 - 1962

Computers are still advancing towards 100% electronic models and programmable.

Important events: the first computergame is designed, Moore's law is defined,


pre history | antiquity | pre industrial era | industrial era

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While operating systems (originally called monitors or supervisors) have been developed as a means of improving the throughput of computers in the late 1950s, the users are frustrated by their lack of intimacy with the computer.

To solve this problem and return the control of the computer back in the hands of the user. Fernando Corbató, MIT, produces CTSS (Compatible Time Sharing System) for the IBM 7090/94, the first effective time-sharing system and coincidentally the first means of remote access to a computer since Stibitz's demonstration in 1940.(20)  The 7090 is a transistorized version of the IBM 709 which was a very popular high end computer in the early 1960s. The 7090 had 32Kbytes of 36-bit core memory and a hardware floating point unit. Fortran was its most popular language, but it supported many others. It was later upgraded to the IBM 7094, and a scaled down version, the IBM 7040 was also introduced.
IBM 7090s controlled the Mercury and Gemini space flights, the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (until well into the 1980s), and the CTSS time sharing system at MIT. The 7090 was not good at unit record I/O, so in small configurations an IBM 1401 was used for SPOOL I/O and in large configurations (such as a 7090/94) a 7040/44 would be directly coupled and dedicated to handling printers and card readers. (See the film Dr Strangelove). (25)

The first commercial Integrated Circuit is put on the market by Fairchild Semi Conductor.

Charles Bachman at General Electric Co. develops the first successful database management system.

Bachman's integrated data store (IDS) featured data schemas and logging. But it ran only on GE mainframes, could use only a single file for the database, and all generation of data tables had to be hand-coded.
One customer, BF Goodrich Chemical Co., eventually had to rewrite the entire system to make it usable, calling the result integrated data management system (IDMS).(31)

Steven Hofstein develops the Field Effect Transistor that will be used in the MOS integrated circuits.

The IBM Stretch computer is an advanced computer.

With this computer IBM will develop and experiment with techniques like the 'look ahead', pipe lining and overlap of instructions, fault control and the "8 bits-byte". In other words multiprogramming is now possible. The Stretch is delivered to the Los Alamos (USA) atomic research center and will remain operational until 1971.

The Scientific Computer and Modulator Processor (SCAMP) is IBM's first operating computer to use the concept of microprogram control, and Hursley's(22) first processor project. (21)

Georg C. Devol patents a robotic device, which Unimation soon markets as the first industrial robot.

It is first used to automate the manufacturing of TV picture tubes.

 The first industrial robot is online in a General Motors automobile factory in New Jersey, called UNIMATE.

read history of robottics on the history of robotics in our robotics timeline.



Brian D. Josephson predicts the Josephson junction. This junction can be used for superfast switches that are 100 x faster than Silicon switches used in today's CPU's

SABRE is the first commercial network.

It took IBM six years to build this air reservation program and the hardware belonging to it. The SABRE system for tickets is installed at American Airlines; 1000 tellers are now connected through the system.

The first semi conductor LASER is invented.

A laser beam can now be generated by a much smaller device and uses less energy.

The first production robot is installed by Unimation at a steel foundry (USA).

The robot replaces a person that had to do heavy work in an hot and unhealthy environment.

read history of robottics on the history of robotics in our robotics timeline.

Spacewar! was conceived in 1961 by Martin Graetz, Stephen Russell, and Wayne Wiitanen.

MIT students Stephen (Slug) Russell, Martin (Shag) Graetz, and Alan Kotok wrote SpaceWar!, considered the first interactive computer game to run on the DEC PDP-1.  It was first realized on the PDP-1 in 1962 by Stephen Russell, Peter Samson, Dan Edwards, and Martin Graetz, together with Alan Kotok, Steve Piner, and Robert A Saunders

spacewar on a dec pdp1
The large round CRT display featured graphics controlled by primitive handmade joysticks. The object being to maneuver away from a gravitational "sun" force at the center, and avoid the other enemy ships, while trying to blast him with your own space torpedoes! Spacewar was a game for two persons (players) and each had the assignment to destroy the other. The game was 100 percent character based. (24)
Seeing the costs one can easily see that this game is not a commercial, also the home computer industry is still and totally absent. One hour playing time on this machine, a DEC PDP-1, would do a small 300 US$. The machine itself costs 120.000 US$. (23)

The printed version of the source is about 40 pages long

A remake created in 1996 (available via - lcs.www.media.mit.edu/groups/el/projects/spacewar) runs on a PDP-1 emulator written as a Java applet. The code is extremely faithful to the original. There are only two changes. The spaceships have been made bigger (the original version was character based) and the overall timing has been a special case to deal with varying machine speeds.

spacewar_sim.jpg (1809 bytes)
screenshot of the remake.(27)

read history of robottics on the history of games in our videogame timeline.

Teletype releases the Teletype model 33 a keyboard and punch tape terminal(4).

This form of in and output will be used on micro systems till the early 70's but until the 80's primarily on mainframe environments.

This terminal will be the picture people (watching high tech and science fiction movies) will have of Information Technology all over the world during the next 15 years or so.

Ivan Sutherland designs a graphical system and calls it 'Sketchpad'(5)  it is the first ever graphical system that can make pictures on the screen.

In Great Britain the Atlas computer at the University of Manchester is operational.

It is the first machine to use virtual memory and paging; its instruction execution is pipelined, and it contains separate fixed- and floating-point arithmetic units, capable of approximately 200 kFLOPS.(20)  


The Bell Punch Company of England is credited with building the first production electronic calculator - the ANITA.

This machine has a full-keyboard modelled on the existing Sumlock mechanical comptometers.

APL (A Programming Language) is developed by Ken Iverson at the Harvard University (USA).

The project is funded by IBM.

First general purpose simulation languages appear: Simscript by the Rand Corporation and GPSS by IBM

SNOBOL a program derived from COBOL appears.

It's not well suited for numerical application except for comparatively simple arithmetic.

First use of virtual memory in a mainframe computer.(25)

Walt Bauer Co-founded Informatics, the company which sold Mark IV, the first million dollar software product, in 1962(18)

EDS is founded by H. Ross Perot in Dallas, Texas, USA.

Max V. Mathews leads a Bell Labs team in developing software that can design, store, and edit synthesized music.

December 7, Atlas, considered the world's most powerful computer, is inaugurated in England .

It advances include virtual memory and pipelined operations.

Thomas E. Kurtz, John G. Kemeny

Dartmouth mathematicians John Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz propose building a College computation center, saying that "whether a student will ever use a computing machine or not, his life is likely to be affected by such machines, and hence, he should know something about their capabilities and limitations.

In this sense, contact with electronic brains is as essential as learning to use the library." Kemeny and Kurtz chose to implement a "time-sharing" system based upon a concept first realized on a small Digital Computer Corporation PDP-1 computer by a team of scientists from MIT and Bolt, Baranek, and Newman, Inc. A proposal is submitted to the National Science Foundation to fund the development project. (30)


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