Apr 8, 2009

Something random and geeky…

O.K. Let me preface this by saying that I know this may be the geekiest thing I've ever done, and by explaining how I got here. I started reading my textbook for school on Monday night. The first chapter was about the history of computers. As I'm reading, I'm seeing a lot of familiar names, as in names of companies that I have seen large offices for here in the twin cities. I am trying not to watch too much TV this week, so I decide it will be fun to investigate.
I started in the 40's with a couple of small companies just as the development of practical computers are beginning to develop. I come as far forward to today as possible.
A couple things:
- I diverge into other industries without choice (I said it was incestuous)
-It's by no means exhaustive, but I tried to include as much Minnesota connections as possible
-The Minnesota companies, or companies who at the time had large Minnesota connections, are underlined and bolded.
You’ll find some big names here:  Unisys, Honeywell, Alliant TechSystems, Remington, Federal, etc.

I realized this afternoon, as well, that I have Visio on my computer. So, I took a first stab at creating a flowchart that I hope helps to show some of the continuity. I've never used it before, so I apologize if things are cramped. Below is the chart. Below that is a more detailed description of the happenings over time. Enjoy. Yes, I know. I am a geek. Sorry, I found the history very intriguing.
Computers in Minnesota
· CSAW (WWII) + NAC (Northwest Aeronautical Corp 1946) = ERA (Engineering research associates) in St. Paul, MN.
o -performed code breaking in the 40s and 50s while trying to build computer (eventually became well known for their drum storage mechanisms
o -contracted by the navy (Task 13) to build a computer
o -Atlas (1950) became the first stored program computer
o -Atlas II (1953) delivered to NSA in 09/53
· *Owners of ERA had gov’t connections and were accused of impropriety in attaining govt contracts in the early 50’s. Partly as a result, they were sold to Remington Rand Corp
o Remington Rand had already purchased EMCC (creators of the ENVIAC, EDVAC, and BINAC) in 1950, selling business computers
o Both ERA and EMCC operated as separate entities of Remington Rand. ERA = military, EMCC = business and commercial
o 1955- Remington Rand merges with Sperry Corp(war machines company), becomes Sperry Rand
§ ERA and EMCC are merged into the Sperry-UNIVAC division of Sperry Rand
o Upset members of the ERA team leave Sperry Rand in 1957, and move down the street to 501 Park St, MNPLS and form CDC (Control Data Corp)
§ CDC sold the fastest supercomputers on the market in the 1960s
§ Seymour Cray is a chief designer and moves his CDC lab to his home in Chippewa Falls, WI in 1962
§ CDC divisions were slowly sold off over the next 30 years. Their hard disk drive dept. was sold to Seagate Technologies (hard drives and storage), and their Energy management division was sold to Seimens.
§ In 1986 CDCs Commercial Credit subsidiary was spun off and eventually became Citigroup
§ Remainder of CDCs service business still exists today as Ceridian Corp. (Bloomington, MN)
· Sperry Rand drops Rand name in 1978, selling numerous Remington Rand brands
· In the late 70’s, Sperry buys RCA and adds to business
· Sperry merges with Burroughs company in hostile takeover in 1986 and becomes Unisys (still has an office in Roseville, MN)
o Many Sperry divisions were sold, including the Defense Systems business to Honeywell.
· Honeywell was a company formed by the merger of Honeywell Heating Specialty Co. (1906, Wabash, IN) and Minneapolis Heat Regulator Company (1886, Minneapolis, MN). The companies merged in 1927, becoming Minneapolis-Honeywell Regulator Company, headquartered in MNPLS, MN
o In the 1970’s, Honeywell also ran the American wing of Pentax cameras
o In 1970, Honeywell bought GE’s computer division, creating 2 operating units: Honeywell Information Systems, and Honeywell’s computer division
o In 1990, Honeywell’s defense division was spun off into Alliant Tech Systems, whose headquarters are still in Edina, MN
§ Alliant TechSystems (ATK) entered the aerospace market in 1995.
· It is one of the largest defense contractors in the country
· It is the sole manufacturer of Reusable Solid Rocket Fuel used to launch the Space Shuttle
§ Since 2000, ATK has acquired numerous large corporations, some familiar:
· The ordnance division of Boeing in May, 2002
· Federal Cartridge – large ammunition manufacturer located in Anoka, MN
· CCI – ammunition company in Lewiston, ID
· Eagle Industries, March 2009 – provides tactical equipment for law enforcement and military
o In 1999, Honeywell merged with AlliedSignal, and the headquarters were moved from Minneapolis, MN to Morristown, NJ.
§ AlliedSignal dropped its name and took the more recognizable Honeywell name after the merger in 1999. Allied brands include:
· Fram Filters
· Autolite spark plugs
· Prestone Anti-Freeze
· Bendix corporation (brakes and brake pads)
o In 2002, much of Honeywell International’s joint ventures were taken over by Knorr-Bremse company, also owner of Bendix brakes corp.

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