Among the Earliest Diagrams for a transistorized Computer Ca. 1950/1
J.H. Felker. Catalog of Digital Computer Designs. [No place of publication and no date.] I suspect that this is a Bell Laboratories (Whippany, New Jersey), publication which was printed in 1950/1951. [On dating this item: I’m thinking that this paper was released before his other two papers in late 1951 as they are not referenced in the notes section. Also there is no reference in the paper to an actual delivery date of the transistors, which Bell and Western Electric announced would be available “several months after” the first transistor conference in 1951. Also the transistor pulse amplifier which Felker requires in his conclusions section seems to have been not available until 1953.]
11x8 ½ inches. 18 pages of text, 18 leaves of diagrams and schematics. All text and drawings are printed on one side of the page, only. This seems to be offset-printed. It also seems to be made for restricted circulation. Very Good condition. $3000
This is Felker’s OUTSTANDING orientation on constructing a transistorized computer.* He states in the second paragraph “this computer design philosophy was followed in the design of the National Bureau of Standards Computer SEAC. It is believed that the approach that will result in a vacuum-tubeless computer at the earliest date is to follow the SEAC example in so far as the use of germanium diode logic circuits is concerned, but replacing the vacuum tube amplifiers with transistor amplifiers.” He states further: “Since the transistor itself has voltage and current relationships quite similar to a germanium diode it is expected that the diodes in a transistor computer will operate in a more natural environment…and will exhibit…longer life and more reliable operation.”
As a matter of fact all of the block diagrams in the illustration section are for “an all-semiconductor computer”. Essentially these are among the earliest printed diagrams for a transistorized computer—and Felker would be the leader of the Bell team that constructed the world’s first all-transistor computer, the TRADIC, in 1955.
Felker was the leader of the Bell team that constructed the TRADIC, which was the world’s first fully transistorized computer. It used 800 transistors and 10,000 germanium triodes and dispensed with vacuum tubes—it was much smaller (at three cubic feet) than any of its contemporaries, and was at least as fast as the fastest computer of the day. It was also far more reliable, and far more dependable.
Felker concludes his paper thus: “A fairly complete catalog of digital computer components has been given in block diagram form with estimates of the number of parts they require… The principal conclusion to be drawn is that an all semiconductor computer can be built with diodes and transistors as soon as a transistor pulse amplifier with a high degree of reliability is available…”
The paper is structured in the following way, by sections: (Synopsis and introduction); Basic Building Blocks; Switches; Handling of Negative Numbers; Adder; Accumulator; Multiplier; Divider; Translator; Binary Counter; Shift Registers; conclusions.
[The image to the right is folding, and thus partly obscured.]
The list of block diagrams, as follows: Or-circuit; and-Circuit; Inhibitor Circuit; Amplifier with Pulse retiming; Storage Cell; a Simple Switch; an Eight Position Switch; Handling of Negative Numbers; Adder; Accumulator; Multiplier; Operation of Multiplier; Binary Division; Simplified Division Process; Divider; Translator; Binary counter; Shift register.
*For Felker's TRADIC Phase I computer project. See James R. Harris, "The Earliest Solid-State Digital Computers," IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 21, no. 4, pp. 49-54, Oct.-Dec. 1999, doi:10.1109/85.80153 AND P.K. Giloth and R.C. Townley, TRADIC—Flyable Research Model Program, Summary Engineering Report, U.S. Air Force, Air Materiel Command, Dec.1 1958.
J.H. Felker, "Performance of the TRADIC Transistor Digital Computer," Proc. Eastern Joint Computer Conf., 1954, pp. 46-49. J.R. Harris, "TRADIC: The First Phase," Bell Laboratories Record, Vol. 36, Sept. 1958, pp. 330-334.
Felker. Application of Transistors in a High-Speed Computer. Bell Labs Transistor Symposium, November 1951. (This is the event where MR. Felker was said to have amazed the other high-power attendees with his talk on transistor applications to the digital computer.
Felker. “The transistor as a digital computer component.” AFIPS Joint Computer Conferences Papers and discussions presented at the Dec. 10-12, 1951, joint AIEE-IRE computer conference: Review of electronic digital computers .
This is a picture of Mr. Felker, (kneeling), before the TRADIC.