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Computing Devices I

My first experience with computers was with a small Ottawa firm, Computing Devices of Canada Limited. Before discussing the computers that were used there I should make a few remarks about the company.

Computing Devices of Canada Limited was founded in 1948 by two Polish immigrants to Canada, George Glinski and Joe Norton. It got its start by manufacturing the Position and Homing Indicator (PHI), a device which kept track of an aircraft's position and indicated the return route to its base. Other government contracts followed including one for the design and construction for the Royal Canadian Navy of a very large digital simulator which was never completed. One very large contract which had a significant influence on the company's growth was for the Kicksorter, a digital pulse counter designed at the Chalk River Laboratories of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited. If the Kicksorter had been slightly modified to do simple arithmetic, it would have been a rudimentary computer. A large number of these devices were purchased by AECL from 1957 until 1963 when they were replaced by one of the early models of the PDP series of computers produced by the Digital Equipment Corporation.

Computing Devices began in a small building on the western edge of downtown Ottawa. A few years later it moved further west to the suburb of Westboro where it occupied the upper floors of a building above the Charles Ogilvy department store which occupied the ground floor. In 1956 or 1957 it moved to spacious new buildings at Bell's Corners a few miles west of the city. In the late 1950s the company became affiliated with the Bendix Corporation, and when this company was acquired by Control Data Corporation became a division of Control Data Canada. At a later date it became a wholly owned subsidiary of Ceridian Corporation. The company, now called Computing Devices Canada, has been described as an "Ottawa-based defence electronics company". I shall mention later some of the people I worked with at Computing Devices, but even this short introduction would not be complete without a few remarks about George Glinski, one of the founders of the company.

When I first went to Computing Devices, I had a desk just outside George's office. I remember him as a warm and amiable person. He was reputed to have had an very large library, and would readily loan any of his books and papers provided the borrower first filled out an index card which he provided. He was very interested in the history of computing and had a small framed picture of Charles Babbage on his desk. George gave a series of evening lectures on computers in Montreal for which he prepared a very thick set of carefully typewritten notes. In one of his lectures, so the story goes, he had given reasons why Alan Turing, rather than Charles Babbage as much as he admired him, deserved credit for being the "father of computing". During a discussion in which one person objected to this, George in his friendly manner asked the person his name. The reply was "Charles Babbage", for he was a descendent! George eventually joined the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of Ottawa. He died in the late 1970s. I believe there is a short street on the University of Ottawa campus named in his honour.


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