“Need for a High Speed Machine”: The Genesis of the R1, 1955

I’ve been doing some research on George and Herman Brown recently and I came upon a box I’d never looked at before. In it were many interesting things but one of the most exciting was a letter to George Brown from President William Houston. Dated December 1955, it is the earliest documentation I’ve found so far of the argument for building a high-speed computer at Rice (predating the 1957 contract I found just about a year ago.) Written for a non-scientist, even I could understand it:

Bonus: Sewall Hall has one of the most consistently interesting loading docks on campus, with a very high rate of weird trash. Artists, I suppose.

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4 Responses to “Need for a High Speed Machine”: The Genesis of the R1, 1955

  1. Bill Peebles, Hanszen '70 says:

    $250,000 (1955) = $2,350,644 (2018)

  2. Owlcop says:

    There are often very unusual things on that dock. I recall seeing George Jones nose sitting there for a few days. My wife would have killed me if I had brought it home.

  3. Joe Graves says:

    Super interesting post!!! It offers insights into motivation and the state/pricing of computing technology in mid 1950s, which I find especially interesting. Also, President Houston‘s memo is a consummate example of its type of communication: it explains the situation and motivation, lays out and costs out the available alternatives for action and financing and shows that the proposal would not be unheard of for an academic institution, but would catapult Rice to the premier level of on-campus computing at the lowest available costs.

    I saw the R1 in operation in the mid-1960s. This is yet another example of how Rice leadership had the vision and courage to take on landmark steps that pushed Rice to the top tier of research universities despite our very limited enrollment. It also highlights the close and strong relationship between Rice and its several benefactors in the Houston community. Out of curiosity, Melissa, do you know how the financing ultimately was secured for the R1? The Browns? NSF grant?

  4. Bill Harris says:

    Way cool! There is a clear tie between Salsburg and Metropolis!

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