UNIVAC 1 (1951) First Commercially Available Computer

Description of the UNIVAC I:

The machine was 25 feet by 50 feet in length, contained 5,600 tubes, 18,000 crystal diodes, and 300 relays. It utilized serial circuitry, 2.25 MHz bit rate, and had an internal storage capacity 1,000 words or 12,000 characters.

It utilized a Mercury delay line, magnetic tape, and typewriter output. The UNIVAC was used for general purpose computing with large amounts of input and output.

Power consumption was about 120 kva. Its reported processing speed was 0.525 milliseconds for arithmetic functions, 2.15 milliseconds for multiplication and 3.9 Milliseconds for division.

The UNIVAC was also the first computer to come equipped with a magnetic tape unit and was the first computer to use buffer memory.

The first UNIVAC I was delivered on June 14, 1951. From 1951 to 1958 a total of 46 UNIVAC I computers were delivered, all of which have since been phased out.

Photo Courtesy of Hagley Museum and Library

UNIVersal Automatic Computer

In 1947, John Mauchly chose the name "UNIVAC" (Universal Automatic Computer) for his company's product.

UNIVAC was designed by J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly (designers of the ENIAC). Their company, the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Company, was purchased by Sperry-Rand.

The UNIVAC I was the world's first commercially available computer.

The UNIVAC handled both numbers and alphabetic characters equally well. The UNIVAC I was unique in that it separated the complex problems of input and output from the actual computation facility. Mercury delay lines were used to store the computer's program. The program circulated within the lines in the form of acoustical pulses that could be read from the line and written into it.

The first UNIVAC came on line for the U.S. Government's Census Bureau. The first commercial customer to purchase a UNIVAC was the Prudential Insurance Company. In 1952, the UNIVAC I successfully predicted the outcome of the 1952 presidential election, during a televised news broadcast. By 1953, 3 UNIVACs were installed and in operation at customer locations and there were orders for 9 more.

By 1954, UNIVAC installation sites included:

(1) Bureau of the Census, Commerce Dept., Suitland, Maryland

(2) Office of the Air Comptroller, USAF, Washington, D.C.

(3) Army Map Service, U.S. Army, Washington, D.C.

(4) New York University (for Atomic Energy Commission), NY, NY

(5) University of Cal., Radiation Laboratory, Livermore, California

(6) David Taylor Model Basin, U.S.N. Bureau of Ships, Maryland

(7) Prudential Insurance Company

(8) General Electric Company

General Electric's Appliance Division created the first successful industrial payroll application for the UNIVAC I in 1954.

In 1956, Westinghouse Electric Company installed a UNIVAC computer in its East Pittsburgh plant. The UNIVAC was used to calculate company payrolls, sales records, analysis of sales performance and other company business. The UNIVAC could perform 90,000 transactions per month.


See Other Views of the UNIVAC:

UNIVAC Tube Board (1950's)

Full View A - - (And Description)

UNIVAC 1 - At the Census Bureau (1951)

Full View B

UNIVAC Digital Recording Tape (1950's)

UNIVAC with Grace Hopper

UNIVAC Vacuum Tube (1950's)

UNIVAC -1 Tape Units (1951)

UNIVAC Small Diode Board (1950's)


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