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My History in Computing
Putting Computers to Work – 1960s

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In the 1950s and 1960s electronic computers were large and expensive "business machines," used almost exclusively for numeric calculations and processing.  Only a few were used, occasionally, to work with text and character handling.  By coincidence, my father was one of those early few. 

In his role at Standard Oil of New Jersey – Esso for most of us – my father asked the company computer people if they could program the IBM 704 (or 7040, perhaps) to generate lists of possible product names, using specified letter sequences such as [consonant - vowel - vowel - consonant], [consonant - vowel - consonant - vowel - consonant], etc.  The full list of 4-letter 'words' ran to thirty or forty multiple-column pages of computer printout.  The lists of 5-letter strings used more pattern variants and ran to many more pages.

My father explained that he used the lists to help pick out brand names for petroleum products, scanning down the pages for ones that would be easy to remember and promote.  On a one-time visit to his office in Rockefellor Center (Spring 1965), I saw the printout binder of the 4-letter words on his desk.  Part of the brand-name selection also included the need to avoid impolite or improper words in more than one language –

PDF Avoiding Brand-Name Bloopers Overseas
  below:   IBM 7040 at Columbia University
IBM 7040

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Copyright 2016 by David B. Tuttle, Reading MA
This page last updated 19-Mar-2016

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