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More about Rutgers computer history

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  • Evan Koblentz
    The ACM archivist sent me all of their documents related to their third annual conference, which was at Rutgers in March 1950. ACM s president at the time was
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 27, 2012
      The ACM archivist sent me all of their documents related to their third
      annual conference, which was at Rutgers in March 1950. ACM's president
      at the time was John Mauchly, then of Remington Rand, which acquired the
      Eckert-Mauchly Computer Co. in February.

      The conference featured 27 lectures. Attendance was 370.

      None of the lecturers were from Camp Evans. I don't think an attendance
      list exists for the other 343 people, but I'm still searching.

      But even if no attendance list is ever found, I bet there's a very good
      chance that some Camp Evans people attended. Here are some reasons why:

      - Camp Evans would have been in learning mode, not teaching mode,
      regarding computers. The base was the Army's electronics sandbox, where
      hot technologies were brought to be pounded on, redesigned, and
      engineered into useful products.

      - The base is only a 20-30 minutes trip from Rutgers (today); in 1950
      there was no highway section of Rt. 18 and the Garden State Parkway
      didn't yet exist in that part of the state -- so maybe it was a one-hour
      trip. Either way, it was close enough for some of the nation's top
      engineers and scientists to easily attend. Travel wouldn't have been a

      - The camp started using the University of Pennsylvania's Bush
      differential analyzer in 1941, and we already know that Mauchly himself
      had a Fort Monmouth radar project in mind (and I'm 95% sure he meant
      Camp Evans specifically) as one of the sample apps when he built ENIAC.
      So it's not like Camp Evans needed any introduction to that community.

      - Camp Evans engineers were also veterans of the vacuum tube industry.
      Chief engineer Harold Zahl was the camp's representative to the national
      Vacuum Tube Development Committee, which met at the Empire State
      Building in the mid-1940s. The camp was also a major testing facility
      for vacuum tubes. Its job was basically to push tubes to their limits so
      they'd be ready for military systems. And, we know that Camp Evans built
      a simple computer for that purpose (I think that happened around '51 or
      '52, but the point stands that the camp engineers understood not only
      tubes, but also the computer applications thereof. Soon after, they
      bought an Electrodata 205.)

      - By 1950, Camp Evans was major player in the development of the
      "auto-sembly" process of circuit design. So naturally, the country's top
      computer conference is in your backyard ....

      - And, of course, Camp Evans was one of the top radar labs in the
      country at this time. The connections between radar tech and early
      computer tech are numerous.

      I think it's safe to ask, "Why * wouldn't * Camp Evans staff have attended?"

      Unfortunately, the ACM archivist said she doesn't think an attendance
      list exists. But I am checking out some other possible sources.
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