This week marks the anniversary of the dedication in 1951 of UNIVAC, the first commercially produced electronic digital computer. The computer was designed and built for the Census Bureau. The engineers that developed the UNIVAC, J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly sold their company to Remington Rand in 1950 before the launch. If you want to go and be part of the dedication, please take this list with you. We all know we must be cautious when time traveling to prevent any tears in the time continuum.
Top Ten Things Not to Do at the Dedication of the UNIVAC computer in 1951.
10 If you go, do not make comments regarding the size of the computer. If you do, at best, no one will pay attention to you. At worse, you are overheard by Eckert. (Yes, the machine is enormous, Lancelot. It weighs 16,000 pounds, but Eckert looks a little upset since this model is about a quarter the size of his last. I think you might apologize quickly.)
9 If you go, do not try to teach Tiny the WWF champ any programming language. If you do, at best he’ll think you are kidding. At worst, Tiny will realize that he is not teachable. (You have a bit of a problem, Landry. You see, Tiny has been ordered by the court to attend self-esteem group sessions. The last session got him to know that he was okay. Your attempts to explain basic programming just set him back four years. He’s looking for someone to blame. Point at John Mauchly quick.)
8 If you go, do not scoff when J Presper Eckert brags about the ability of the machine to perform 1905 instructions per second. If you do, at best, he will think you have hay fever. At worst, he’ll call upon you to explain your scoff. (You are on the spot now, X. See when you scoff knowing your iPhone can do 3.2 billion instructions per second you are going to have a tough time explaining your way out of this one. Maybe you should just admit to hay fever.)
7 If you go, do not make jokes about the heat from the 5000 vacuum tubes. If you do, at best, one or two may get the joke. At worst, John Mauchly will ask you to take your marshmallow stick and leave the premises. (Now you have made him angry, Langley. Of course, he doesn’t know that transistors would be available within five years. If he did, he would think you were a genius instead of ending up upside down in the alley.)
6 If you go, do not take your iPad. If you do, at best, people will think it is a clipboard. At worst, J Presper Eckert will spot you doing some calculations on it. (Don’t worry, Laochailan. Just hit the screen hide and show him your clipboard screen saver. He’ll never know.)
5 If you go, do not ask Eckert about punch card inputs. If you do, at best, he will be flattered since there are none. At worst, he ‘ll be insulted since he and Mauchly worked hard to make a digital electronic input system without the need for punch cards. (Now you have Eckert yelling at you, Laramie. He thinks you are a punch card fan and too dumb to recognize his achievement. Just tell him you were kidding and to put that chair back under the desk.)
4 If you go, do not ask to speak to someone from the computer science department. If you do, at best no one will be available for weeks. At worst, you will talk to a person who will speak a different language. (Not to worry Largo. Here is a handy reference for talking to computer science people. There are three columns and twenty rows of words. All you have to do is pick a word from one column, add it to another word in the next column, and finally tack it on to a third word. Put it all in a sentence, and you are good to go. For example. “Can you guys integrate bipolar terminals and publish a report on the results?” The guy will say he’ll look into it but is totally impressed.)
3 If you go, do not mention IBM around anyone in the room. If you do, at best, you will be near the coffee server. At worst, you’ll be taken as a spy. (Well, Larue, how does it feel sitting here with the eggshells?)
2 If you go, do not ask Eckert if the computer can predict presidential elections. If you do, at best, he’ll laugh. At worst, he’ll want to know where you got the information on his secret pet project. (Of course, Laszlo you didn’t read your history. You didn’t realize the UNIVAC surprised the world by predicting the outcome of the election of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s unexpected landslide victory in November of 1952. You now have a lot of explaining to do.)
1 If you go, do not ask Eckert and Mauchly why they sold their company to Remington Rand. If you do, at best, both will be talking to someone else and not hear you. At worst, they will help you out to the ally, which has been your home away from home, it seems. (The problem is Lathan these guys are terrific engineers but horrible businessmen. They were lucky to see before they went bankrupt.)