GOLDBERG and DEMON CODE BREAKING COMPUTERS
Engineering Research Associates, commonly known as ERA, was a pioneering computer firm from the 1950s. They became famous for their numerical computers, but as the market expanded they became better known for their drum memory systems. They were eventually purchased by Remington Rand and merged into their UNIVAC department. Many of the company founders later left to form Control Data Corporation.
The ERA team started as a group of scientists and engineers working for the US Navy during WWII on code-breaking, a division known as the Communications Supplementary Activity - Washington (CSAW). After the war budgets were cut for most military projects, including CSAW. Joseph Wenger of the Navy's cryptoanalytic group was particularly worried that the CSAW team would spread to various companies and the Navy would lose their ability to quickly design new machines.
By the late 1970s, a number of Rand employees purchased the ERA name and started a small government contracting firm. In 1989, the "new" ERA became a wholly owned subsidiary of E-Systems. In 1995, it was merged into the Melpar division of its parent and the name once again disappeared.
|GOLDBERG computer. Completed in 1947, it used a crude drum made by gluing magnetic tape to the surface of a large metal cylinder that could be spun at 50 RPM for reading (and much slower for writing). Over the next few years, the drum memory systems increased in capacity and speed, along with the paper tape readers needed to feed the data onto the drums. ERA later ended up in a major patent fight with Technitrol Engineering, who introduced a drum memory of their own in 1952.(NSA photo)|
|The DEMON computer was one of the follow-on machines. It was built
to crack a specific Soviet code. In 1949 the code was changed thus rendering
the machine useless.
James Pendergrass, a Navy officer attached to the codebreaking unit, had attended a series of lectures at the Moore School of Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania in 1946, and became convinced the only lasting solution to the code breaking problem was a computer that could be quickly re-programmed to work on different tasks. In 1947 the Navy awarded ERA a contract called , "Task 13". It was to develop what was destined to be the first stored program computer. The machine, known as the Atlas, used a drum memory and was delivered in 1950. ERA then started to sell it commercially as the ERA 1101, 1101 being binary for 13. Even before delivery of the Atlas, the Navy asked for a more powerful machine using both Williams tubes and drum memory, a machine known as the Atlas II. Work began in 1950 and the completed Atlas II was delivered to the still-secret NSA in September 1953. (NSA photo)
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