Welcome to the Datatron 205 and 220 Blog

This blog is a companion to T J Sawyer's Web Page that outlines the history of the Burroughs Datatron 205 and Paul Kimpel's incredible 205 and 220 emulators. Please visit those sites and return here to post any comments.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Willis Ware, Another Pioneer We've Lost

It was sad to hear recently of the passing of Willis Ware.  If you follow that link to his NYT obituary, you might think there is a misprint when you notice the sentence that begins, "Mr. Ware, who worked at the RAND Corporation for more than 55 years..."  The Obituary doesn't begin to give proper credit to Ware.

He didn't have the flair and gusto that Herb Grosch or Edmund Berkeley possessed as evangelists of the Computer Era in the 1950s but I suspect that Ware was the final checkpoint before a purchase decision by a great many organizations.

Willis Ware traveled everywhere there was to go in the computer industry from just about day one starting with von Neumann at Princeton's IAS and then heading West.  And, he took notes.  The Charles Babbage Institute holds seventeen boxes of Willis' notes and collected brochures.  If you think you know everything about some obscure computer from the 1950s, you had better check this source before jumping to conclusions.  Willis Ware probably visited the manufacturer, evaluated their management as well as their computer and assessed their likelihood of success.

Did Willis Ware stop at ElectroData and evaluate the Datatron?  O yes.  He wasn't quite there at conception but he made several visits before birth, beginning in 1952.  He thought that putting L. P. Robinson in charge of the machine development "is sparking the whole project" and gave it a feeling of well-being and good health."  Later, in 1954, when it was clear that ElectroData had a winner, Ware was the one who suggested that ElectroData write up an article for the IEEE Tranactions detailing the machine.  The result was John Alrich's,  "Engineering Description of the ElectroData Computer,"  in March of 1955.  This is arguably the most elegant description of a first generation computer that was ever produced.

With 55 years at Rand under his belt (Wikipedia only credits him with 50) it was only appropriate that Ware write the definitive book on RAND's role in Information Technology.  He did just that in 2008 at the age of 88.  The book is RAND and the Information Evolution.  I highly recommend that you buy a copy.