Way Back When... 1970
Published 12:00 am, Sunday, November 19, 2017
This Friday marks the 48 anniversary of a patent being given to Douglas Engelbart for the first computer mouse. While Engelbart accomplished this feat way out on the West coast, Darien still played quite a roll in the evolution of the modern business computer.
James Rand, the chairman of Remington Rand, which in the middle of World War II would establish its headquarters in Rowayton, was a Darien resident. In fact, his descendants still play a role in Darien, one serving on the planning and zoning commission.
Rand decided to bring the company’s headquarters to Connecticut because he lived in Darien. Rand chose the Rock Ledge estate in Rowayton, that would serve as the company’s headquarters from 1943 to 1964.
Remington Rand was best known originally as a typewriter manufacturer, but it was in a barn on that Rowayton property according to a 1998 New York Times article that the UNIVAC line of mainframe computers got its beginning.
“What the group in the barn had done... was to take a concept, that of a computer just for business, and bring it to reality,” reads the 1998 column.
UNIVAC I mainframe computer was introduced in 1951.
According to a story in Wired the computer became famous for predicting the outcome of the U.S. presidential election the following year. “This incident is particularly noteworthy because the computer predicted an Eisenhower landslide when traditional pollsters all called it for Adlai Stevenson.”
The 409 (as the computer was also known) was the first electromechanical computer of standalone, modular design that allowed replacement of parts in modules, according to an article on the website Connecticut Museum Quest.
In 1953 Remington Rand merged its Norwalk tabulating machine division, the ERA “scientific” computer division, and the UNIVAC “business” computer division into a single division under the UNIVAC name.
In 1955 Remington Rand merged with Sperry Corporation to become Sperry Rand. The UNIVAC division of Remington Rand was renamed the Univac division of Sperry Rand. In that year Gen. Douglas MacArthur was chosen to head the company.