Library Computation Project, c1960

I’d run across these images a couple of times in the past and just set them side as hopelessly enigmatic. None are dated and only one has any label at all, which is written so sloppily it’s impossible to make most of it out. All I can be sure of is that the first name of the gentleman is Fred. Here he is:

Library Computation Projecr Fred D nd

It occurred to me when I saw them again today that one of you might be able to tell me something about this. I don’t know if the computer is for the library or for something else, if its purpose was research or administration. The file folder only says “Fondren Library Computer Project.”

Library Computation Project machine

Library Computation Project

The clothes suggest late ’50s or early ’60s, clearly sometime before the world went crazy, which I would put at about 1965 (at least clothes-wise).

There’s something else interesting here, in my favorite picture of the bunch:

Library Computation Project printout

Where’s that door?

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17 Responses to Library Computation Project, c1960

  1. C Kelly says:

    I just checked Wikipedia for info on the IBM 7040. The article said the first one was shipped in April 1963. That model was popular with universities because it was cheap, or so Wikipedia says.

    • C Kelly says:

      Oops, I should have added that it was made with transistors. IBM discontinued it after a short run. I would assume silicon chip technology made it woefully obsolete.

    • Mark Williamson says:

      Yes, that’s the one. The 7040 never made it to the Space Science building, though.

      An interesting point in the article is the use of “on-line” to mean it had its own punch card reader and its own printer (as opposed to having that done by a smaller computer with which it exchanged tapes, as U of H later used the A&M 7094 mentioned in the article — via Greyhound “data bus”).

      The Physics Department 1401 mentioned in the article is the one that moved to Fondren Library. I believe it was replaced in Bonner Nuclear Lab by an IBM 1710, a variant of the 1620 that was better adapted to real-time data acquisition for the linear accelerators than the 1401.

  2. almadenmike says:

    The stack of 25 disks indicates it’s the IBM 1405, which was first introduced in 1961. (The first commercial disk drive was the IBM 350 RAMAC, which had 50 disks (100 surfaces) and stored a grand total of 5 megabytes. When I worked at IBM Research, I had one of those original 24-inch diameter disks in my office to show visitors how far the technology had come.)

  3. almadenmike says:

    Searching for { Fred “library computation” 1960 “Rice University” } I found this December 1968 journal article by Frederick H. Ruecking, Jr., Head, Data Processing Dvision, Fondren Library … who might be the Fred in the photo.

  4. effegee says:

    Mark Williamson, a reader of this blog, worked on the project for Fred before joining RCL/RCC/ICSA/IT.

    • Mark Williamson says:

      Yes, I did. I started working with Fred in the summer of 1967 when he got a grant to participate in the Library of Congress MAchine Readable Catalog (LC-MARC) project. An IBM 1401 was moved over from Bonner Nuclear Lab to a tiny room in the basement of Fondren Library (near the old gas chamber) for this project, a Selective Dissemination of Information (SDI) project, and other work. After the building was extended, the 1401 and peripherals were moved into a larger space designed for them plus expansion room.

      • Melissa Kean says:

        Gas chamber?

      • Mark Williamson says:

        Yes, gas chamber. Books tend to become infested with various pests (bugs, worms, mold, etc.). A few hours in an air-tight chamber filled with noxious gas can kill many of them. I recall hearing that they used cyanide gas, but that’s third-hand and quite possibly wrong. I think it had been just a storage closet for a while when I started working there.

  5. mattnoall says:

    No, this model was replaced by the System 360. IC technology really did not arrive until later. The very first IC was made around 1958: ( but it took several years before commercial uses began and certainly longer than that before things like single chip ALU’s arrived. Actually, for this era, a transistor based computer was probably cutting edge technology, replacing relay based digital computers.

    • James says:

      Your link to the TI sight brought back many memories of that time. I was working at the TI plant in Stafford when Kilby showed off the first hand held calculator. I don’t know why but him holding that tiny calculator burnt an image in my mind that has never gone away. He said that there would be a lot of changes in the future and mentioned the auto industry. Boy was he was right, we’ve had a lot of changes.

  6. Syd Polk says:

    I took Rice Summer School for High School Students from just after 6th grade in 1976 to 1980. In 1976, I took Introduction to Computers. The instructor, named Naman, introduced me to a gentleman who worked in Fondren. I believe that he actually showed me the computer pictured above. I was 12 years old, so I may be remembering things incorrectly. I do know that he let me take some kind of manual home, and I never returned it. It eventually was lost…

    • effegee says:

      That would be John Naman. John became an I.T. employee in the late ’80s for a few years after running a consulting company based around the IBM Series/1 minicomputer following graduation. After leaving Rice he pursued a Ph.D. at (I think) Carnegie-Mellon. John’s father had a large mechanical engineering firm (I.A.Naman & Associates) well known in Houston and frequently involved in mechanical engineering work at Rice.

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