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Computing Devices II

Many persons who worked as programmers at Computing Devices went on to careers in computing and mathematics mostly in Canada and the United States. When I joined the company in late 1954 the computer was located in the newly formed Data Processing Department which was headed by Edgar F. Codd who had just come to the company from a position with IBM in the United States. Ted returned to IBM a few years later and eventually became an IBM Fellow for his work in relational data bases. He received the ACM Turing Award in 1981.

Jim Howland, who has already been mentioned a couple of times in this paper, took over the Data Processing Department on Ted Codd's departure. Jim left the company in the late 1950s for the University of Ottawa as did Cormac Smith who became Director of the Computing Centre. When Cormac left for the University of Windsor after a couple of years, Jim Howland assumed his position as Director, and when the Department of Computer Science was formed he joined the Department of Mathematics. Charlie Mackenzie, Frank Howley and Ed Lowry all went to IBM in the United States. In 1959 Bill Adams left for the University of Alberta, and I left the same year for the Canada Department of Agriculture eventually joining him at the U of A in 1963. Peter Sefton left the company to work first with Jim Howland at the University of Ottawa, and then after holding positions in government, industry and academia became a mathematics teacher in a secondary school in Perth, Australia.

I can remember Peter giving a lecture in about 1958 or 1959 about a new language he had heard about and which he thought might relieve some of the tedium of machine-language programming. It was called Fortran which, he said, was an acronym for "Formula Translation". I had to agree with him that it was indeed a great improvement on how we had been programming the 102-A and 102-D. Little did I realize just what an effect Fortran and its successors would have on the programming community in general and my life in particular. I realized even less the much greater changes that were in store when Bill Adams introduced me to APL a few years later.

In looking at the manuals for the NCR 102-A and NCR 102-D and those for the Bendix computer one cannot help but notice the difference between both the writing and production standards. Those for the NCR computers were certainly quite adequate for the programmer but were produced as typescript with coil bindings. The Bendix manuals were well written and organized, concise without being obscure, and attractively laid out and printed. Reading them again after so many years, especially with the size and price of most of computer texts and manuals today, was a very pleasant experience.


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