Computer Museum news about computers, microcomputers, hobbyist, robotics, computing, Bugbooks, Computers in the Bugbook Historical Computer Museum collection, & amateur radio staion N4USA .

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Remington Rand Univac - 1957 - My introduction to vintage computers 56 years ago at age 19 - David Larsen

Bugbooks
Bugbooks
I am very fortunate to have started learning about computer technology in (1957) -  the very early days of commercial computers ...being in the right place at the right time. . This start was not planned by me but was one of those times -

            David tells a few words about his first computer training in 1957.

Remington Rand Univac
Crystal Radio
Crystal Radio
How I made it to technical training classes at the Remington Rand Univac  plant in St. Paul, Minnesota in September 1957 has a personal history of events leading up to that day. My fortunate selection to be part of the Navy computer training in 1957 started with a crystal radio set I assembled in 1948 as a 10 year old kid experimenting with the wonders of radio.  Wow signals were coming from somewhere out in space. I was just amazed that I could hear music with and old set of earphones, a crystal detector and a few pieces of wire. I remember how great it was to go to bed at night, put on the earphones and hear those early radio broadcast of stories and music - it seemed to me like a private magic show every night. Actually I was early to bed every night in those days and without the usual mom and dad coaxing. I wanted to know  how this magic was created and this started my life long interest in electronics and radio. That was 65 years ago so my memory is not clear about the details however I seem to remember my interest in the magazine "Mechanics Illustrated ". It was reading this I learned about the little device called - 'a crystal radio receiver with no vacuum tubes'. I put my $ in the mail and when the parts for the crystal radio arrived at our rural farm house in Salem, Oregon my future interest, avocation &  career in electronics was set for the last 65 years.

David Larsen Radio License
David's Ham License
David Larsen KK4WW
David Larsen
My interest in radio continued and  I learned about how I could send out my own radio signals and talk to other folks with a similar interest with something called HAM RADIO.  I studied for the required license and in 1954 traveled to the FCC office 50 miles away in Portland, Oregon. I was really excited to  pass the exam and in those days we had to pass a Morse code test and draw out some diagrams for the examiner - no multiple choice questions. It seemed for ever before the license arrived in the mail , I think it may have been 2 to 3 weeks. When it arrived as WN7VZW I had my little amateur radio station all set to go and called  a CQ ( anyone listening please call me I am ready ).   My first contact was a long way from home in the state of Washington . I still have the QSL (confirming card) for the contact with W7AMC on June 19,1954.

I was a member of the high school radio club and studied all the electronic courses available.  Building radio receivers and transmitters was just great fun along with a lot of time ON THE AIR operating. During those days military service was a mandate. You could wait to be drafted into the Army or volunteer for one of the services.  I had no interest in the military and wanted a way to do my time in the shorted way possible and maybe have a choice at what did on  active duty.  While I was a junior in high school I learned of a Navy 2 by 6 program. Volunteer for this and you could do just 2 years of active duty in the Navy and then 4 years of reserve duty - a meeting one evening a week for the 4 years.

Now my interest and skill in electronics was starting to pay off for me. With the amateur radio license I was able to start at once three ranks up from the bottom of the enlisted ranks. This would have been my rank at the end of a normal 2 years of duty. WOW life was getting good - another benefit of being in the Reserve before going on active duty was BOOT CAMP was only 2 weeks long and not the usual 8 weeks. I did my 2 weeks while still in high school between my junior and senior high school years.  During my last year of high school another - Right place at the right time - situation. I was able to take the exam for 3rd Class Petty Officer and was  promoted during my last year of high school.


David Larsen Univac Computer
David - middle back 1957
David Larsen Univac Computer
Remington Rand 1957
In September 1957 after high school graduation I started my two years of required active duty by traveling to the Navy receiving station in Seattle, Washington.  This is where you go to wait for your regular assignment.  In about 2 weeks my orders arrived and a Navy Yeoman  called me and was really upset. He was mad at me as a young kid only18 years old getting a golden assignment. I was to report to civilian school at Remington Rand Univac in St. Paul, MN. The Navy gave me a bus ticket to St. Paul and a few $ and sent on my way.  WOW this was a golden assignment, only about 12 Sailors in the whole Navy at Remington Rand.  That was  not all - no Navy base so I got special money each month for an apartment and food. We even dressed in civilian clothes -- no Navy duds here.  You can see this was just unbelievable luck and good news for the 19 year old farm boy.  The classes were very interesting and all new things for me. I had no idea what a real computer was like before arriving at Remington Rand - The computer I learned to maintain was a real monster  - it seem to be about as big as the house I grew up in. This was the start of my professional life long career in computers and electronics.

The video is an introduction about my computer collecting and other current activities in the Heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Floyd County Virginia.





David Larsen KK4WW
David Larsen
That first experience with a computer - 56 years ago - was exciting. WOW am I old or what ?   Their are older computer collectors however I am getting to be a part of the older active collector retro geeks.

 "by David Larsen"  KK4WW Computer Collector Historian   
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