My History in Computing
Putting Computers to Work – 1960s
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 –
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 –
Copyright © 2016 by David B. Tuttle, Reading MA
This page last updated 19-Mar-2016