Sperry Rand Corporation. Univac Division.
Hagley Museum & Library
Manuscripts & Archives Department
P.O. Box 3630
Wilmington, DE 19807-0630
181 linear ft.
In 1967 Honeywell, Inc., filed suit against the Sperry Rand Corporation and its subsidiary, Illinois Scientific Developments, Inc., in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota to challenge the defendant's patent claims involving the basic design of the electronic digital computer. The trial opened on July 1, 1971, and lasted 135 days. Sperry Rand's claims were based on the ENIAC, the first operating electronic digital computer, which had been developed by J. Presper Eckert and John W. Mauchly between 1942 and 1945. The ENIAC, with its 18,000 vacuum tubes, had been commissioned to produce ballistics tables for the Army's Ordnance Department, but it did not have stored memory capability. Eckert and Mauchly formed the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation in 1946 and began to develop a commercially viable computer using R&D funding from the Census Bureau. This funding proved inadequate, and the company was on the verge of bankruptcy in 1949. Eckert and Mauchly were forced to sell the company to the highest bidder, which was Remington Rand, Inc., a major manufacturer of business machines and office equipment. Remington Rand delivered the first UNIVAC computer to the Census Bureau in March 1951. Under devastating competition from the IBM 650 Computer, introduced in 1954, Remington Rand merged with the Sperry Corporation to form Sperry Rand on June 30, 1955. The Patent Office finally granted a patent on the ENIAC to Eckert and Mauchly in 1964. Sperry Rand then began notifying all computer companies that they were violating its patent rights and offered to license its competitors for a fee of 1.5 per cent. IBM reached a $10 million settlement with Sperry Rand in 1965. Honeywell and Control Data Corporation rejected Sperry Rand's claim. Sperry Rand sued for patent violation and Honeywell countersued, asserting that the patent was fraudulent. On October 10, 1973, Judge Earl Larson handed down his decision, upholding Honeywell on every count. He concluded that the ENIAC was derived from a primitive prototype computer developed by John V. Atanasoff and Clifford E. Berry at Iowa State University, even though it had never been fully operational. Damages were not awarded as he found the defendants innocent of willful intent to defraud. Scope & Content Note: The Honeywell-Sperry Rand lawsuit produced 50,000 pages of trial transcript, and over 36,000 documents were entered in evidence. Sperry Rand's lawyers produced a huge archive of trial documents. Two major files were created, the "Original file" of documents from Sperry Rand's own archives, and the "Chronological file" of all documents located during the discovery process and entered as exhibits. The trial archive is a major source on the history of the computer industry. The "Original file" consists primarily of the records of the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation and documents the efforts of Eckert and Mauchly to develop and market the ENIAC, BINAC, and UNIVAC computers. The records on ENIAC trace the development of the first electronic digital computer from its conception in 1942 through its completion in 1945. Included are a copy of Mauchly's original proposal to the Ordnance Department, a copy of Mauchly's original proposal to the Ordnance Department, his correspondence with John V. Atanasoff, and his lecture notes from the University of Pennsylvania's Moore School of Engineering. There is a complete set of ENIAC progress reports, as well as correspondence between Herman Goldstine, the Army's chief liaison and the engineers who worked on the project. There are also files on the EDVAC computer, the first with stored memory capacity, which was developed by John von Neumann. The records of the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation proper describe the development of UNIVAC on a component-by-component basis. They include technical memoranda, progress reports, engineering notebooks, and patent files. Customer correspondence includes letters and contracts with the National Bureau of Standards, A.C. Neilsen, Northrop Aviation, Fairchild-NEPA, and the American Totalisator Company. The "Chronological file" is a complete record of all documents submitted in evidence during the trial. Much of the material in this series duplicates records in Series I - but the "Chronological file" is more complete. The records from 1935 to 1950 are particularly valuable as they describe the origins and evolution of most of the early computer projects. There are reports describing John Atanasoff's computer and letters which trace his unsuccessful attempts to sell his machine to IBM and Remington Rand during the 1930s and 40s. The chronological file also contains documentation on the computer projects sponsored by National Cash Register, IBM, MIT, and Harvard University during the late 1930s and early 1940s. The records show that IBM provided considerable support to Harvard's Computation Laboratory run by Professor Howard Aiken. During this period National Cash Register with the support of the United States War Department was attempting to develop an electromechanical calculator, which the Army hoped to use to compile firing tables. This project was headed by Joseph R. Desch. The records also document MIT's famous Whirlwind Project which evolved out of a Navy contract to build an analog computer for a programmable flight trainer. The middle boxes of the chronological file describe the various UNIVAC computers developed between 1952 and 1969. The records trace the process by which Remington Rand continually lost ground to IBM during the 1950s and 60s. The final 25 boxes of the chronological file describe Sperry's efforts to secure, license, and defend the ENIAC patent and the events leading up to the lawsuit. The trial transcript contains 50,000 pages of testimony in 137 bound volumes. It is a complete record of the proceedings in the case between June 1, 1971 and March 13, 1972. The testimony analyzed the origins and early history of the computer from the perspective of the engineers, businessmen, and marketing people who shaped the industry. Judge Larson's "Finding of Fact, Conclusion of Law and Order of Judgement" represents both the verdict of the court and judgement about the history of the electronic data-processing industry. The witness deposition file contains copies of the 102 transcribed depositions entered in evidence. Many of the individuals who worked on the ENIAC, BINAC, and UNIVAC projects were called to testify. Their statements provide important insights into the early history of the computer industry. Witnesses included John Mauchly, John Brainerd (Dean of the Moore School of Enineering), Joseph R. Desch, Herman Goldstine, Arthur Burks, John V. Atanasoff, and two of the engineers who worked on the ENIAC project, Isaac Auerbach and Herman Lukoff. Researchers should bear in mind that the depositions are made by interested parties attempting to influence the court.