Development Planning for Industrial Computer Section - K.R. Geiser
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Development Planning for Industrial Computer Section



Manager - Engineering

Industrial Computer Section

The development planning for the Industrial Computer Section can best be covered by considering it in three separate parts. First, the engineering program itself; secondly, the dollars involved in this program; and thirdly, the people to san the program and their competence.

In outlining for you the engineering program, I will attempt to do as Mr. Oldfield has done, And that is to limit my remarks, as much as possible, to that portion of the program that is concerned primarily with digital data processing equipment. It is somewhat difficult to partition the program in a manner to isolate items that are of interest solely to this area; so I beg your forgiveness if you detect some work, wherein it will be readily apparent to You, that it also has a major effect on other areas of computing activity.

Our planning for this engineering program dates back a little over a year, at which time, a study team was organized and chartered to survey the state of computer technology. This study team was active for some three months and during this time they consulted with all of the organizational components within the General Electric Company who were concerned with the design and construction of either analog or digital computers; and in addition, they consulted with some external groups having similar interests. Also, they contacted approximately half of the computer user components of the General Electric Company. The purpose of these consultations was to determine the limitations of presently available equipments, the limitations of the components or internal parts that made up the computer; to the end of determining what both the designers and the users of computers thought Deeded to be done next. The results of this work were compiled under the heading "Computer Technology Report", which was presented to Mr. Linder who in turn presented it to the Advisory Council. It is available as TIS report number R55GL167.

The heart of this "Computer Technology Report" had to do with: 

a. A survey of the technical computer problems.

b. Proposed solutions to these problems.

c. An analysis of the "areas" of benefit.

d. An analysis of categories of technical work required. e. An estimate of the cost.


Briefly, some 29 technical problems were pointed out, of which 14 appeared to have an extremely high priority. Specifically, one problem had to do with input equipment for digital computers or data processing equipment, two problems were concerned with the arithmetic and control circuitry within this type of computer, two problems were in the interest of lower cost and higher capacity storage devices or "memories" for data processing machines, one, of course, was concerned with a higher speed output printer, six problems were concerned with the availability of complete machines, the application of complete machines, and the improved reliability of complete machines. The remaining two problems were in the analog field.

There are, of course, numerous ways of classifying or categorizing the se problems, such as those that are critical components, those that are Advanced Techniques, and those that are product development; but for your purpose, perhaps an even better way is to know that six of the solutions would be in the nature of a General Electric Company contribution to the computer art, two would result in lower cost -of over-all computer and data processing systems, two are in the interest of improved reliability, four would serve to extend the scope and capabilities of data processing systems, and two were strictly advanced engineering aimed directly at product development.

At that time, tentative solutions were proposed to most of these problems and in the remaining cases approaches were outlined which would lead to a major decision point concerning the future direction of the problem.

Also, at the time of this study, an analysis was made to be sure that this engineering program was not too heavily slanted toward any one group or area of the Company.

This analysis, concerning the "areas that would benefit" from this work, indicated that all areas of the Company benefited somewhat, but the category entitled "User-Data Processing" benefited most heavily.

Using as a backbone this "Computer Technology Report" our present engineering program has largely constructed, and today we are happy to report that of these 14 most important problems, we have work under way that will directly influence 10 of them, and perhaps a few words concerning some of these would be in order.

Work on the improved input device for data processing machines, specifically character reading devices, is active at two locations. Work on improved logical components and improved circuitry is active in the Electronics Laboratory. Work on improved high density random access storage device is active in the General Engineering Laboratory and in the Microwave Laboratory. Work on a high-speed printer continues around General Electric technique commonly referred to as "Ferromagnetography." To gain field experience with this technique, a complete gray-scale picture drawing facsimile recorder has been built and developed and is now operating



in the U. S. Navy Department. At the present time, two printers of the character printing type have Just been completed which are being installed as part of prototype computers to be delivered to the Signal Corps for field tests. In the analog field, we have work active concerning two computers; first, one specifically designed for production scheduling and called the "Productron" and secondly, a computer for linear programming. Also, we bave two activities under way at the Advanced Electronics Center in Ithaca which should result in a transistorized operational amplifier and a transistorized multiplier for use in analog computers.

Now I have left until the end the most important one of all, as far as data processing machines are concerned, and that has to do with the ERMA work for the Bank of America. As Mr. Trotter told you, ERMA is a form of data processing machine, and our activity here will do more than any other one thing to provide us with new components, techniques and experience that will directly benefit your interest in data processing equipments. We are not simply copying ERMA as it was designed by Stanford Research Institute; we are starting right from scratch and are thoroughly analyzing both the basic philosophy and the logic design underlying this computer. We are not sure that the cascaded logic that they have used is the best for us in the long run. Following this, we have told the customer that we will transistorize this machine in so far as possible. My guess is this may be approximately 75 per cent. Within this 75 per cent will come the development and availability of new transistorized control and arithmetic components that we will be able to use in machines for you. The transistorized components should provide better reliability which means less service cost to you. Also, they should reduce the power drain, which means less power supply, which means less first cost to you. ERMA has in it many of the elements that you will have in your data processing machines. That is large memory, tape storage, arithmetic units, input and output devices, etc. There is no doubt in my mind that the obtaining of this contract is one of the best things that could have happened to us, as far as you are concerned.

Now the second part that bears on our development planning is dollars. I will cover this very briefly. In light of our market predictions, we are estimating our advanced development requirements as follows:

1956     $750,000

1957    1,150,000 

1958    1,200,000 
1959    1,400,000 

1960    1,600,000



An analysis of our 1956 expenditures indicate that they in the correct order of magnitude: 

Self-sponsored expenditures in our own advance development organization                               $300,000

Directly sponsored Labs. Dept. Programs                                                                               127,000

Supporting Labs Dept. Programs from assessed funds                                                              130,000

Advance developments sponsored through ERMA 150,000 Military sponsored advance developments 160,000

which totals to be $867,000.

In 1957, we plan to increase our self-sponsored expenditures by at least $100,000 and beginning in 1958 we will increase our self-sponsored expenditures by at least an additional $50,000.

The important point here is that we are establishing the magnitude of our advanced development work at a level that should achieve us a respectable place in the industry. You remember that the Electronics Business Study showed that to achieve a certain standing in any particular segment of the Electronics Industry, the continuing expenditure for advanced development could be related to over-all industry sales. To achieve third or fourth position in the industry, it is necessary to invest .15 per cent of over-all industry sales of three years hence.

The third and last part in this development planning has to do with people, and here there a couple of points. First, I would like to make it clear that the ERMA contract has not or will not require an exorbitant amount of manpower to the point that it will dilute our other activities. The ERMA project has been set up in Palo Alto as a separate subsection and is recruiting much of its own manpower in open competition with the other subsections. It, of course, has the West Coast market to draw on and therefore is not serious competition to the point of hurting the Schenectady and Syracuse recruiting. Some real quick figures will tell you the magnitude of the ERMA manpower requirement. The engineering bill on the ERMA project is roughly $ 2 1/2 million, of which we will "farm out" approximately $1 million worth. The Stanford Research Institute are easily capable of taking care of this much of the job. This leaves $1 1/2 million worth of work to be done in the General Electric Company. Our time schedule tells us that this effort must be applied within the next two and one-half years; so $1 1/2 million divided by two and one-half years is some $600,000 a year. Figuring that the average engineer costs the job approximately $35,000 per year, this of course includes engineering assistants, draftsmen, etc., it says that the average number of engineers on the ERMA project will be about 17. The second point is that we are not yet experiencing too much difficulty in recruiting engineers. We are undoubtedly riding on the crest of at least two waves. First, the announcement of the establishment of a new section always brings a wave of applicants and we are seeing some of this; secondly, the obtaining of the ERMA project indicated to those who were skeptical that we were really serious about getting into this business, and this has brought other



people who have been associated with other computer projects. These two influences, plus the fact that there were in the General Electric Company a few computer people who were holding their breath waiting for the establishment of this section, has resulted in the availability of a sufficient number of the applicants to enable us to get a fair start in building up our organization. These people are not all inexperienced. We have been able to bring into our new activity all of those desirable, experienced people that were in the General Engineering Laboratory, with the single exception of one man.

Finally, I would like to repeat what Mr. Oldfield said; that is, that we have no axe to grind. We do not have a standard product on the shelf that we will try to apply to - your problem. I have always contended that the data processing requirements of the General Electric Company are of sufficient magnitude that you can write your own specifications and get what you want. You certainly don't have to take something that was designed to fit a whole gamut of possible applications. We are interested in working with you to the end of providing a proper impedance match between your application and the data processing machine. That is, I think, that our computer design engineers working closely with your procedures people can, by each gaining a proper understanding of the other's interests, arrive at that optimum point where we have an economical data processing machine that adequately handles the important parameters of your business.




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