Control Data Australia Memories compiled by Brian Membrey

Blasts From The Past : 40’s and 50’s

In this section, we look at a few bits and pieces that appeared in the press of the 1940s and 1950s (currently to 1954) about the electronic “brains”that were about to take over the world (silly statement, really - it will never happen, just check your mobile phone!).

In fact, "computers" hardly rated a mention - mechanical or electronic "brains" dominate!

Arthur Vance, Sir Ben Locksjeiser, Professor D. R. Hartree, Trevor Pearcey Professor D. M. Myers and Professor Harry Messel, (both Sydney University) and their benefactor, Sir Adolph Basser all rate a mention.

There were no silly model numbers like CDC 6600 or System/360, the  “brains” had real names they could be proud of : “MADDIDA” (pronounced Mad-Ida, "magnetic drum digital differential analyser', “ENIAC”, "OARAC" , “FOSDIC”, “ILLIAC”, “MANIAC”, ”ORACLE” (before the Oracle Corporation thought of it), “TRIDAC” and of course, “SILLIAC” all featured - although there was an IBM 701.

But perhaps the most intriguing (perhaps not so surprising given overseas reports were obviously transcribed by those who had little knowledge of the subject), “univac”, more often than not in lower case, but correctly UNIVersal Automatic Computer.

The snippets included have in most part been downloaded from the National Archives of Australia TROVE website.

A major capital city newspaper from each state has been used in the search - with the exception of The Canberra Times, the on-line resources end with 1954 editions.

This is not really a problem.  By this time, articles on "electronic brains" were becoming more common-place and thus of less novelty value .

The basic search has just been on the word "computer" - this can bring back hundreds, if not thousands of potential matches, firstly because TROVE often considers "computer", "computed" and even "complete" as a match

And although we don't use the term in the same context today, "computer" and "computer" were regularly use in the 1950s as a job description for someone who performed arithmetic or mathematical calculations as part of their nine-to-five job (hint : if searching, specify "Articles" only, including "Advertising" (which is included by default) will generate thousands more matches).

There is also a strong likelihood that some articles will have been missed - there never was a guarantee of the work being all-inclusive!  Given the rudimentary nature of the industry and even more so of the reporting, "computer" was as likely to be "mechanical brain" or "electronic brain", even as late as 1954.