Winky Blinky Lights


This week I'm in the Philadelphia area at UNISYS Tredyffrin Executive Briefing Center doing some computer hardware training. In their front lobby, much to my amusement, I encountered a working UNIVAC main console, with Winky Blinky lights and all:

univac1.jpg

univac2.jpg

univac3.jpg

The UNIVAC 1 is a machine with important historical significance to the computer industry because it was the first mass-produced computer to be sold to corporations. It's also the computer that has the distinction of being the one that Walter Cronkite used to correctly predict the outcome of the 1952 Presidential Election.

UNIVAC later on was purchased by Sperry (just following its purchase of Remington Rand) which later on merged with Burroughs and became UNISYS in 1986. The console depicted above in the lobby of UNISYS Tredy is actually a UNIVAC II, an improved version of the original utiilzing transistorized components that was released in 1958, a few years after the Sperry merger.

All I can say is I'm glad I am being trained on one of these and not one of those! I'm not sure if the Linux kernel has been ported to UNIVAC yet. Although I suppose if you are really curious about how it worked, you could always try the simulator.

NEW (5/16) I've added this short flash video (10MB) so that you can get the full effect of the blinkenlights.

NEW (5/17) I've created a PDF file with the photographs of the circa 1948 and 1955 UNIVAC sales and marketing documentation that was lying next to the console. If someone would like to transcribe these from the somewhat blurry photos, please do. They are definitely readable though.

Other cool UNIVAC documentation here at bitsavers and computerhistory.org

4 Responses to Winky Blinky Lights

  1. Al Kossow says:

    This is a UNIVAC II control panel. The original doesn’t have NIXIE Tubes.

    http://www.bitsavers.org/pdf/univac/univac1/UNIVAC1_FrontPanel.pdf

  2. The UNIVAC II SC (Supervisory Control) console *HAD*
    NIXIE Tubes. What Mr. Al Kossow shows is the
    UNIVAC I SC, Not de Univac II SC.

  3. [...] z10 with fully functional difference engine gears. And while we’re at it, a Univac III laptop, complete with winky-blinkies,. With a ENIGMA design smartphone to go with it. Not everyone thinks the Apple industrial design [...]

  4. Card Player says:

    Love the machine pics

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