February, 1954, Aircraft & Airport
Canada’s first commercial installation of electronic computing equipment is being made at the plant of A.V. Roe Canada Limited in Malton, Ontario. Costing around $130,000, this modern marvel – a computer system made up of a digital computer, with “memory drums” and “memory tapes”, together with analogue computer racks – in two hours will run through problems that would take an operator on a desk-type calculator seven or eight months to solve, working eight hours a day.
The equipment was sold and is being installed by an all-Canadian company known as Computing Devices of Canada Limited, which has a plant and headquarters in Ottawa. The manufacturers are Computer Research Corporation of Hawthorne, California, and Boeing Airplane Company of Seattle, both of whom are represented in Canada by Computing Devices. In this capacity, Computing Devices made all the necessary preliminary surveys, and in addition are responsible for the engineering, installation, and servicing of the equipment, as well as the training of the personnel to operate it.
Computing Devices credits one of Avro Canada’s executive engineers with stating … “This computer system will provide enormous time and money-saving advantages. Problems concerned with response to control movement or external disturbances, heretofore taking weeks to solve by hand methods, will now run through in a few hours and in some cases, a few minutes. In designing today’s complex military aircraft, these computers are probably indispensable. They are the most useful servant mankind has designed.” Another use to which Avro Canada’s computer is to be put will be in the solving of high-speed aircraft stability problems.
In non-technical language, the computer operates from a memory drum, a magnetic tape, or a combination of both. The drum will store over 40,000 electronic impulses or bits of information, and will deliver these back to the machine in any order required, and at unbelievable speed. The tape is also used to store data, and holds 4,000,000 individual items of information, which can be fed back from it and printed on paper, all from instructions previously fed into the computer by the operator. The tape acts as an automatic filing system for the computer.
Computer Research Corp manufactures the CRC 126 magnetic memory tape, which can handle 4,000,000 items of information. According to Computing Devices, the Boeing Electronics Analogue Computer, CADAC 102A, will eliminate costly trial and error methods for practical dynamists by simulating aerodynamic problems and flight conditions.
Computing Devices of Canada is a little-known organization, probably because the market it serves is of such high technical level, and the product it sells is beyond the comprehension of the lay public. In addition, practically all the work carried out by the firm in its five years of existence has been of “classified” nature, on behalf of the RCAF and the RCN.
The firm is headed by George Glinski, President & Director of Development, who once commented on electronic computers in these terms, “Just as the first industrial revolution has displaced man and animal as a source of power, so the second industrial revolution will eventually displace man as a source of thinking.”
This article originally appeared in the February, 1954 edition of Aircraft & Airport magazine. The photo from the museum archives shows an Avro Arrow and CF-100 outside the A.V. Roe plant. The images of the computer system are from Aircraft & Airport magazine.