Desch-Mumma interview, day 2, tape 2, side 1

INTERVIEWEES: Joseph Desch and Robert Mumma

INTERVIEWER: Henry Tropp

DATE: 18 January 1973

This section of the Desch/Mumma interview runs from page 88 to page 125 of the transcript of Tape 2 from the second day, January 18, 1973

[page 88]

HT: Let’s continue then with your tube interest and your work at Ohio State.

JD: Yes. this is in answer to your question, that is how did I develop any expertise in, in tubes and know anything about it, because there’s quite a store of knowledge. And, of course, I had .. quite a library by that time on this subject, too. A lot of stuff published in, in book form generally on how to handle glass and the different kinds of glass.

HT: When did you get started with glass blowing — we might — that might take us back to the earlier origins; and pheraps even into your ham origins, ham radio…

JD: Well, I would say that it was in the first or second year of college.

HT: Mhm.

JD: No, it was ealier than that. I think it was while I was in high school. I became interested.

HT: Where did you go to high school?

JD: At the University of Dayton .. Seem they had a high school and a university.

HT: That’s right. That was fairly common before.

[page 89]

JD: Yes. And, so I went eight years to that institution.

HT: In a sense, what they called the University High School?

JD: Yeah.

HT: Right.

JD: And, of course, when I went to college there I was well acquainted with the place I had just spent four years there anyway. So .. then I think is when I started it. Now, the reason I say that is I had to have some money. It is expensive and that sort of things. Alll kinds of special tools and so forth. It had to be around then. I never even thought about that actually.

HT: What kind of research were you and Professor Heil doing? What were you primarily interested in?

JD: Well, .. I was interested in making vacuum tubes for radio use because I wanted to put them in my transmitter. Big tubes. I bought the envelopes from Corning and then all I had to do was put in the elements. And I had to use tungsten, and molybdenum, and tantalum, and all kinds of rare metals to fabricate the parts

[page 90]

and to make the grids and make the plates, and put in the thoriated filaments and activate them and so forth.

And … the … work at Ohio State was … Heil was writing a book–don’t know if I’ve got a copy of it now or not . And he wanted to find — and this was quite a, a subject at the time–he wanted to find the velocity of emission of electrons from a hot body versus the temperature of the body; and a filament is a hot body. The initial velocity, because of the effect that the electron cloud around the filament has on the control element, the grid. And you can — It does effect the, the grid potential necessary for certain types of conduction. And, there were no data available. Saul Dushmann from .. General Electric gave some of the only early estimates of it and we had his books and so forth. But, what I, what I didn’t have, why Heil had up there, so we exchanged and I, I gave him a lot of material for his laboratory, too, that he didn’t have, instead of ordering it and waiting forever on it in the University’s process of purchasing I

[page 91]

could get faster for him. But.. and I did it out of appreciation for what he was doing for me, because he – I got a good education just over two days a week for two years from that man, because I was working with a very high level man. And he treated me as an equal, and I treated him with a hell of a lot of respect which I had for him because of his status in the physical world. No question about that.

HT: But he was a professor of physics who was interested in –

JD: He was dean of physics.

HT: Dean, dean of the College of Physics at Ohio State.

JD: And that, that was the experience and also aided me in my learning how to blow glass and, and, and of the equipment available, because he had it. And, and some of the work that we did was rather hazardous work. I think that one of the transformers that we used for powering this large set up was apout six feet high and four feet square and it had an input of 2,200 volts and I don’t know what power output it had, but it was certainly a

[page 92]

powerful device and we used to thrown those wires around like crazy. But, he accomplished his objective. And, when he died I got a very lovely letter from his wife. .. He would have been in his eighties or nineties by now, I imagine, or more. And I got a very lovely letter from her and it made me feel very good.

HT: So your interest then in tubes and their characteristics and their .. potential research involved in them goes back then really to your early education?

JD: Yes. It goes back very far. .. I even did some glass work down at Fridigaire. Remember all the manometers?

RM: Oh, yes. You made the manometers for us.

JD: I made all the manometers we were using and these were not simple manometers. These were manometers that were on an angle.

RM: Well, then they had the glass contacts welded into —

JD: Yeah, I put contacts in them

RM: I think y’ used

JD: for the control.

RM: platinum wire or something like that for ’em, yeah.

JD: Yeah, so that the – we, we could control apparatus when the pressure would change, it would uncover

[page 93]

or cover a contact and either close or open a circuit. And those kind of things.

RM: See, we developed a device down there that would measure the amount of refrigerant. Well, at first we would check the status of the equipment we were going to charge to find out whether there was any vacuum, whether the vacuum was good enough,

HT: Aha.

RM: because in this process that was developed while Joe was there, you’d pull a high vacuum on a refrigeration unit, heat it to 250 degrees, and if that vacuum would be maintained through that process, we knew we had a no leaker and no moisture. And then this device, this manometer Joe made, we’d use to detect that, and then we’d charge the refrigerant automatically into the unit, and that was developed.

JD: That–Bob, you yourself largely, except for one or two little items in there like you’re mentioning, you–you’re the one that really developed that machine.

RM: Well, I don’t know.

JD: You know darn well you did. You know the headaches you had.

[page 94]

RM: But, that machine was down there for years and years after that until Bob Goebel made this newer one, but I was amazed how long

JD: Bob’s got an entirely different scheme.

RM: Yeah, I know it. Oh, yes.

JD: I was down there just …about a month ago.

RM: He’s got a flow meter or something like that.

JD: Well, it’s, it’s still a newer device.

RM: I see.

JD: I can’t describe it, but I did notice that .. there was a plunger running down in a cylinder.

RM: Oh, I see.

JD: forcing the liquid over into a , into it,

RM: Oh yeah.

JD: and he had, he had — he could set, he could set

RM: Yeah.

this level on the side anyplace he wanted to shut it off.

RM: I see. I had to go through thermodynamics to have super-heated … vapor allotted, while I —

JD: Yeah. We did it — we did it a different way, yeah.

RM and JD: laughter

RM: That really was a problem. Well, anyway.

HT: Yeah, this book that you were reading from is the testimony in the Dickinson

[page 95]

JD: Yeah.

RM interference of 19 —

JD: Yeah, You see they …

HT: The trial was 1948, that’s right.

JD: asked me the same question as you did.

HT: Yeah, that’s right. .. The .. extension from this period then — since this was done in 1948, you were in the laboratory then and you left the laboratory in 1949 and came back to the research and product development area and then you mentioned this long period of time — when you were in – related with the military department. Now what was th- what does that refer to?

JD: — eh —

RM: It wasn’t really (?) military.

JD: … … Well, I – that’s in 1960.

HT: Oh, that was in 1960?

JD: See, from ’60 to ’71.

HT: Aha.

JD: That’s eleven years.

RM: Mhm. That’s right, yes.

JD: But .. we, we weren’t, .. .. we didn’t flouder after World War II for want of things to do. We, we knew pretty well what we wanted to

[page 96]

JD: do. We were getting smarter when we acquired CRC, and then, as I told you, we were given the job of developing a computer, a set of specs, which we couldn’t – which we couldn’t really do without having an internally programmed computer. So, .. it was done out at Hawthorne, California. They de- the designed the prototupe of the 304

HT: Mhm.

JD: which was an all transistorized comuter. When it came time to — it had to be engineered after it — the prototype always has to be re-engineered – then is when . the difficulties developed, because the … the, the management decided to breing the engineering event back to Dayton, and Hawthorne iddn’t like it a bit. Well, .. the battle went on for a while and, and, and Mr. Allyn was, of course, was the man who was insisting that it be engineered here, and then he changed his mind somewhat, and he decided that we wouln’t wouldn’t engineer the whole but but he was going to have another company, a .. .. another electronic company, .. build certain elements of this machine and he didn’t think we could build them.,

[page 97]

HT: Mhm.

JD: Well, this was a falsity for the simple reason that Hawthorne could have, could have re-engineered it, they — as they have done many times since.

HT: Mhm.

JD: Well, anyway — we went around to different companies to see who would do it and then it ended up — remember Philco was the one that we investigated, and RCA — we ended up with General Electric. And General Electric wasn’t even in the computer business but they started up a computer operation out in Phoenix, Arizona. And in fact, built a building way out on Devil’s Canyon Road and — they, they built the computer box itself and, and some of the, some of the interfaces between the computer box and the peripherals. But the peripherals remained at Dayton.

HT: Mhm.

That’s what he meant when he said he worked on

That’s right, that —

JD: high speed printers,

HT: Right. You were involved —

JD: tape units of different kinds, .. magnetic tape

[page 98]

JD cont: units, .. paper tape units, card punches, card readers, .. the whole gamut of, of things that were gonna ..

HT: Storage – storage elements?

JD: Yes. All – the whole gamut of things that were going to be tied in and had to be united with what was being made by General Electric, and that required great liaison. And – and, but we had systems design here. We had control of the system.

HT: Mhm.

JD: And, .. a- and so we made a lot of trips to Phoenix, and finally we got computers on the market. And then the question was how many, and the management decided only to build 30 of them. Now these were pretty big computers,

RM: Yes,

JD You wouldn’t get them in this room.

RM: They were tremendous

JD> And I, I forget the impulse speed of the things. Do you remember?

RM: I forget, too, I believe.

JD If wasn’t too high. It – I, I don’t know why it wasn’t higher than it is – than it was – but it was not a drum .. Memory. It was a tape memory,

[page 99]

HT: Oh, it was a tape memory, not a core memory either?

JD: .. It had an internal memory of core

RM: It had .. yeah.

JD: I mean the operating memory was core.

HT: … was core.

RM: .. Yeah.

HT: But the external –

JD: File Memory.

HT: file memory was, was disk.

JD: Not disk

RM: No, just tape.

JD: tape.

RM: But they did interim have a fairly large memory using memory core.

JD: Yes, it was a large working memory. In those days you needed more working memory because of the —

HT: Yes.

JD: They were much bigger.

HT: So you only built 30 of them, were they all sold and —

HT So you only built 30 of them, were they all sold and — ?

JD: Yes, they were all put out and they’re still out. I don’t know I haven’t seen one in quite a while. The customers still love ’em.

[page 100]

HT: Mhm.

The — and, by the way we didn’t have much trouble with them at all, either.

HT: Aha.

JD: They were – the —

HT: You estimate was that lots more should have been built?

JD: Well, I really fought for it. I wanted to build more. I said, “How in the world are you going to go enter into the lease business with just a handful of something?”

HT: Mhm.

JD: I said, “and five years from now, you’ll wish you had a thousand of theme out.”

RM: Of course, the dollars — that’s — what they worried about was the investment.

JD: Well sure, I know.

HT: Yea.

JD: See, we — we — we have a sizable amount of money tied up in inventory on computers right now.

RM: See, these are leased, most are leased out.

HT: Now is this machine that you said yesterdat was the first trasistorized

[page 101]

JD: Yes.

RM: Yes, it is. Yea.

HT: A production model computer?

JD: That’s right.

HT: I mean, there were, there were ones of a kind before that, I’m sure, that were built and used in .. single situations. But as a —

JD: you mean, from Hawthorne?

RM: any place. Transistorized.

JD: Oh, I – I don’t know .. .. I’m quite sure that other people must have built computerized trasistor — transistorized ..

HT: Transistorized.

JD: computers.

HT: Yeah, but this is the first production?

JD: But I’m talking about something you’d put a —

HT: Right, yea.

JD: put out a flyer on to see, and then

HT: Right, yeah.

JD send a salesman around for closing a sale.

Right, and there are many of them of the same type. That’s a — that’s different, yeah.

[page 102]

RM: The — the Marine Corps had quite a few of those around. I don’t know if they are still using them or not. Friom the East Coast to the West Coast —

JD: Yes.

RM: there’s three or four of ’em.

JD: The Marine Corps did buy a lot of ’em — or lease a lot of ’em.

HT: But only 30 were built?

RM: Yeah.

JD: Yes. Now, back at Dayton, back at the old homestead, we brough out a small computer called the 390, which was developed in — in one of, in my research laboratory after we moved from here. Remember I said I had engineering and research? Well, that was run by Mr. Gulden.

HT: Mhm.

JD: and they developed a NEAM #2, they called it something like that.

RM: Yes.

JD: And, and the patent was filed with seventeen co-inventors on it by, by our friend up in the front office here, .. .. that’s his name?

RM: Louis Kline or [inaudible]

JD: No, No

[page 103]

HT: Jay ?

JD: Jay.

HT: Jay Cavendar

JD: Jay Cavendar.

RM: That’s right.

JD: worked with ’em over there and he’s

RM: That’s it.

JD: The man who filed it and you’re going to run into it because .. well, write the name Holloran down, because he, he seemed to be the project engineer, because his name will be one of the seventeen.

HT: Do you want to spell his name for me?

JD; H – o – double l -o-r-a -n.

RM: That’s Tom.

JD: Tom Hollaran.

JD: When you ask for all of his patents, you’re going to get this one.,

HT: NEAM 2.

RM: Or Class 390- or, what –?

JD: Well, it had to be re-engineers. They built a prototype

HT: Mhm.

JD: and then we re-engineered it in the engineering division that he was in

HT: Mhm.

JD: because both of them were working for me at that


[page 104]

JD: time until .. .. until it ws perfected. And we just sold a barrel of them, too, didn’t we?

RM: We sure did. We sold a lot of those.

HT: Now, this — you say a small computer — what that a desk size?

RM and JD: Yes.

HT: A desk size computer, and its purposes were primarily for business applications?

JD: Abolutely.

RM: It was built around a class 31 machine, which was a combination of an adding machine and a typewriter. It was used for an input and output device.

HT: Mhm.

RM: Or you could enter from the keyboard. Also, we did make tape units to feed into it. The basic output was borth the typewriter for alphabetic printing and the adding machine printer for numerics.

HT: Now this is — is this about 1959, 1960, or it is later?

It’s a little earlier.

HT: A little earlier than that?

RM Earlier, yes.

JD: Yes. You ought to find it under patent, I don’t know — Wasn’t that the one that took the ledger card, pulled it in, and read it on the side plate?

RM: … I don’t think so. I think that the ledger card went around the platen for the scanning operation.

[page 105]

JD: Did it?

RM: Yes. The ledger card was fed into the platen and pulled around it for the scanning operation. The magnetic reading heads were mounted at the end of the platen.

HT: Y’mean, so it kind of went around an arc?

JD: But you see, it had the same feature as the Class 29 had, only it was on a carriage type machine; see?

RM: Yeah, it —

JD : Whereas the Class 2000, or the Class 29 or the Post-tronic, whatever you want to call it, has a fixed .. .. carriage. See?

RM: Yeah, it —

JD: Whereas this one has a moveable

RM: Yeah. Mhm .. It —

JD: carriage and we fed these cards in, and they would automatically pick up the old balance and so forth, and then we could — it — it was a beautiful machine. I, I thought it was very good.

RM: Of course, it was more sophisticated in a lot of ways, because we had a lot more data on those, on those magnetic stripes on the backs of the ledger cards. The bands were narrower and we also stacked the data a lot closer.

[page 106]

HT: Mhm> Yeah, you were able to get a higher desity for entering them.

JD: That’s right.

RM: Highes densities, yes.

JD: We learned how to, how to pack better, and also our source of supply of magnetic material, well, you wouldn’t believe it. And we got it from steel mills as a scale from rolling steel.

HT: The scale that comes off of the —

RM: Rolling steel.,

HT: Rolling steel — the stuff they used to throw away?

JD: Iron oxide. We bought the iron oxide.

RM: It was powdered.

JD: We powdered it still further and that’s what we used. That turned out to be the best material you could get. We tried everything.

HT: Well, you know, I, as a college student, I worked in a rolling mill, U.S, Steek, And we often talked abouty by-products, but that’s one element that I never would have envisioned as having any use whatsover. Well, let’s turn this off and break for lunch.

RM: Yeah.

JD: All right.

[Recorder off]

[page 107]

HT: Bob, why don’t we give you an opportunity, .. now that we’ve returned from lunch, to talk about some of the other projects you were involved in like the Project ERMA .. connection that you just mentioned?

RM: Yes. There was a need for the ERMA projet, which was being done by Standford Research Lab for the Bank of America, .. to handle processed bank checks automatically. Then, of course, there was the discussion as to whether they were going to use optical reading or use magnetic reading, to record the data off of bank checks. I was on the committee to make that decision. Magnetic printing was chosen, since you could writer over it without defacing it. With optical character reading it was obvious that a bank check, which is handled by many people, could easily be defaced by just writing your name over the optical printing, or something like that. But, magnetic printing could not be defaced so easily. And then, of course, the discussion was whether to use code bars and we decided we needed something that could be read visually as well as

HT: So you –

RM: by machinery.

[page 108]

HT: Right. So you could use both techniques then of, of reading what was printed at the bottom of the check?

RM: So then

HT: Optical or

JD: It was human reading and, as well as machine reading.

RM: And one engineer — I can’t think of his name right now — at, at Stanford had gotten the idea of using a single gap reading head in which you generate a characteristic wave shape off various shaped characters and then the wave shape was analyzed. And so the idea was then to develop, fourteen different characters, ten of whcih represent digits and four represent control characters, each of which will generate different wave shapes that can be recognized by this device. So we had something equivalent to a wave analyzer that would look at these wave shapes and decide whether the character was a 1, 2, 3, or 4, or whether it was a hyphen, or a character to indicate the amount, or another character to indicate the account number, or another character to indicate the bank number.

HT: Hm.

RM: And, after a lot of other experimentation and a lot

[page 109]

of discussion, with several companies working together that were involved in this thing, we .. finally agreed on the type of character that you see on the present day.. bank check.

HT: Right. I see one character with a couple of bars, a small square, .. thick bars, vertical bars, .. but essentially you’re using a vertical line, a small colored-in square and a thick vertical line. Are those the three characters that you refer to?

JD: Well, I would say the geometry of –

RM: Yeah.

..

JD: I can read, I can read those there. You see, the 109 looks like a arabic numeral 109. Nine, and two and four, 56, 1-89 –

RM: ..

JD: they look like arabic characters.

RM: But, he’s, he’s also talking about these other, these other characters.

HT: The other symbols, the other characters that appeared here.

JD: Oh. Well. They are special characters that do what he just said.

RM: There’s a –

HT: Determine whether it’s an account number or —

[page 110]

RM: Yeah. There’s a fourth symbol that doesn’t appear here, that would appear over here, .. that is the symbol for the amount. This particular symbol that looks like a “p”, it’s got two vertical bars and a square, is a symbol for the account number, and this is a hyphen which is simply a number separator and could be used as an identifying symbol if you wished. Then the two dots and a vertical bar is a symbol for the bank numbers. This number would be the same number which you see in the upper

HT: Oh yeah.

RM: right-hand corner of the check. That’s the bank number over here. So, that you can, you can sort the checks by banks, like the Federal Reserve ;V System does; you can sort it out by personal accounts.

HT: Oh, yes, I see that here — the 1-0-9 on mine and the 29 on yours.

RM: Now the problem you have with this, this system is to get the amount on and that is done the first time the check hits the bank as a part of the proing operation, when you prove out – to prove that is .. .. this, these checks .. agree with your deposit slip

HT: Mhm.

[page 111]

RM: At the time the girl is indexing the amounts on the Bank Proof Machine, the amounts and the amount symbol are printed in the selected area on the check, using magnetic transfer ribbon similar [to] the one time carbon ribbon used on executive typewriters.

HT: Mhm.

RM: The Bank Proof Machines use magnetic transfer ribbon for printing the amount digits and the amount symbol, making them look exactly like the characters and digits previously printed with magnetic ink for the Bank Number and the Account Number.

HT: Mhm.

RM: And the symbol for that amount is also printed automatically in this, machine. So, from then on this check can be handled independently without any further human intervention. And that was a, one of the maior projects that —

JD: And that was a major project because all the banks had to get into the act. I mean, the entire United States Banking Association, or whatever it’s called, had to get together and agree, because the whole United States is on that system.

HT: Well, the Bank of America, originally when they

JD: They started it.

[page 112]

HT: They started this thing, because I was living in California and I remember the start of the system. .. Did

JD: Yea, they started it.

HT:they do it

HT: before they got agreement that

RM: No, no.

HT: all the banks – what did they just

JD: No, we changed the characters after we took it away from ’em.

RM: We had to have complete agreement on this magnetic printing from all of the banks, the business machine manufacturers, and the bank check printers, before this system could be used. Even the Federal Reserve Banks had to use this system.

HT: Mhm.

RM: So, we had the Federal Reserve System and the Bank of America involved representing the banks. We had the bank check printers represented by Delux Check Printers, because the had to develop a special magnetic ink and manufacture the special printing type required to do the printing. The business machine manufacturers were represented by IBM, Burroughs, Univac, Standard Registers Co., Addressograph – Multigraph, and NCR. We had a rather large committee becuase of the agreement

[Note: Pitney Bowes Co. was also represented.]

[page 113]

we made had to work for everybody. This had to be a, a universal.. code or it wouldn’t work at all.

HT: Mhm.

JD: And that, and that –

HT: It has since become international.

JD: That character that you see on there originated with NCR.

HT: Now how did you – what were some of the problems you had with character shapes in terms of these wave lengths and in terms of differentiating the wave lengths?

RM: Well, the – the problem is to, to get as ,great a difference between the 14 — in this case it’s 14 — different wave shapes.

HT: Mhm.

RM: .. You didn’t

JD: Clear distinction between them.

HT: Right.

RM: You didn’t want any two to look very nearly alike or you would be having .. more problem for error.

HT: Can you pick, say, two symbols and tell me verbally what the waves look like?

RM: I –

[page 114]

HT: Take the symbol for six. Do you remember or have any idea what the wave ..

JD: No, I, I wouldn’t think that we could do that.

RM: I don’t think you could/because the only thing you can do is estimate the Wave shape of the character, from looking at the character itself. As you scan the character

with a single slot reading head, various signal amplitudes are generated, depending on the character shape. A vertical edge extending for the total vertical height of the character generates the greatest signal amplitude.

HT: You hit that vertical line.

RM: You hit the vertical line, and the vertical lines are the only ones that are going to give you a strong signal

HT: Mhm.

RM: If, as you scan the leading edge of the character a positive signal is generated, then a negative signal will be generated as you leave the trailing edge. When the six is scanned a small signal is generated as you scan the front of the lower loop, a still smaller signal is generated as you scan the “hook” at the top of the six.

HT: Aha.

RM: As you scan further through the six you get a rather large signal as you scan the long vertical back side of the six.

[page 115]

HT: I see.

RM: Not exactly a sine wave, but you will get a series of different wave shapes, one for each character.

HT: Yea, and then it will be broken; it will be a discontinous

RM: Yes.

HT: shape.

RM: These wave shapes are fed through a delay line. The amplitude at seven equally spaced positions along the delay line is sampled at the instant the leading edge of the character wave shape reaches the output end of the delay line.

HT: Mhm.

RM: These amplitudes are evaluated by fourteen resistor networks each of which is designed to attentuate the amplitude at its positon along the delay line to zero for its wave shape.

HT: Mhm.

RM: A wave shape that matches its resistor network will be attenuated to zero. Any other wave shape will generate a signal with an amplitude above or below zero. The character or digit is identified by the nework having the sero amplitude signal.

JD: A mismatch.

RM: The mismatched signals are ignored in this reader. The zero signal from the near perfect match will trigger an internally generated signal on one of the fourteen output lines, each of which represents a charcter or digit. I may be in error in some of the details, but the principle of operation is as I described it.

[page 116]

HT: Mhm.

RM: This type of reader was also used by others. IBM used a digital approach, breaking each character up into small bits, with as many as ten magnetic reading heads in the space of the vertical height of the character. There were thirty reading heads in the complete assembly to allow for character misalignment. The output of this multichannel reading head was read at six or seven equally spaced intervals during the time that the character was passing the reading head. These signals were applied to a 10 by 30 resistor-diode matrix for analysis and character identification.

HT: Aha.

RM: and they decoded with a discrete pulse system.

HT: Well, of course, now with your thermal printer with this 35 by 35 matrix of dots, you could have done the same thing. A very quick reading.

RM: I doubt that.

JD: Well – …

RM: Because this was a magnetic reading system.

HT: Yeah, I say but it could be magnet- you could do a magnetic printing of that same

JD: Yea.

HT: shaping.

JD: there is a .. .. considerable amount of technical opinion here that one of the best ways to do optical charcter reading is by reading a matrix

[page 117]

HT: Mhm.

JD: and it’s most positive method. And, and we have optical readers but they’re very limited, to a very small number of characters. We can’t read the alphabet, for instance, the … alphabet. But, if – but you, if you did a five by seven matrix, you, you can do an alphabet.

HT: I was going to say, with that thermal

JD: Mhm.

HT: printing array of a 35 by 35 matrix –

JD: It’s five by thirty-five –

HT: Five by thirty-five

JD: — five by seven, thirty-five points.

HT: Thirty-five points which represents the whole alphabet plus all the symbols

JD: Yeah.

HT: on the typewriter. The inequalities and all the various other symbols that you –

JD: Sixty some characters I would imagine.

HT: Right. And it would seem to me that that is the easiest way for optical scanning to read everything back.

JD: Well, that’s my favorite method, but I’ve never been able to sell it.

[page 118]

RM: Yes.

JD: And I, I’m not in that business anymore of reading optical characters and I don’t know how we’re getting by, but we read, we read about 12 or 15 characters optically by.. .. digitizing. We read two levels, as we go across the character for a cash register and we get pulses. .. in other words, we generate a code

RM: Of the [inaudible]

JD: of — the character gives us a code, digital code,

HT: Mhm.

JD: which now we can decipher.

HT: Yea, well, of course, that 5 by 7 array

JD: ‘d give you more.

HT: gives you another beautiful digital code.

RM: But, you’d have to scan across there at least seven – you’d have seven reading heads run across there, to scan each positions. That’s – see this is what IBM – they did and that’s why the reader, a reader costs a lot of money.

HT: Mhm.

RM: Now, the NCR optical reader, like Joe says, was developed with only two reading heads and we read the center top and the center bottom and then all

[page 119]

of our characters were stylized so we got a distinct combination of codes out of that reading, but that was just done to simplify the reading process.

HT: Right.

JD: That was done only for cash registers

RM: Yes.

JD: and we printed in numerals.

RM: Yes. – We couldn’t go into, into the alphabet.

HT: But, I say, the .. a more complicated one with seven heads instead of two

JD: Well, I agree with you

HT: would handle all the characters.

JD: because I’m basically a matrix reader man and I am sorry that we just don’t have one; and it’s out of my field now, but I still think that that’s gonna be the ultimate.

HT: It, it just seems like a logical step

RM: Yea.

JD: Sure.

HT: from what you showed me this afternoon.

JD: It certainly does. It certainly does.

HT: Yea, it’s a – it doesn’t take a great big intellectual leap to see that.

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JD: The funny part is that when I am in the military the last 10 years, I found no requirement in the military that required optical reading.

RM: Well, how about, how about reading address — oh, the military. The post office, though, did.

JD: .. Yeah, the post office.

RM: Reading addresses.

JD: Yes, but the guys that got there first were Phil– Philco. Philco got the field all to themselves.

RM: That’s right.

JD: We couldn’t break in.

HT: Mhm.

JD: But they – Philco can read the alphabet, addresses, numerals, everything that you can think of. They can, they can read the whole front of the envelope, and they, they have the equipment to do it.

HT: Mhm.

JD: And they’ve already spent the money

HT: Mhm.

JD: and they, they charged about $75,000 per, per item to build ’em for the post office, and the post office buys them. But, you can’t break into that one very easily without spending a lot of money.

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And, and if – when you’re in the military business, you want military money and military isn’t about to spend the money.

HT: They’re not interested in, in optical reading.

JD: Yes. They’ve already got a reader.

HT: Oh.

JD: You see, that’s the point. They’re not going to spend the money twice

HT: Mhm.

JD: and Philco got there first because they worked on it years before we ever got near it.

HT: What were some of the other projects you were involved in, Bob?

RM: I think that was the only one outside these, the various peripherals for NCR computers I, I mentioned this morning the

JD: 304.

RM: Yeah. The printer and that sort of thing. I guess we – we developed themn later for the Century series, this is before I retired –

HT: For the what? I’m sorry.

RM: The Century series of computers,

HT: Yeah.

RM: That’s the ones on the market right now — the

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Century 100, the 200 and the 300 and then this 251. We did develop a printer to print 3,000 lines a minute, but, of course, a printer going that fast, you had more maintenance problems. And I undestand now that since they’ve formed this new cpany, y’know that CDC and NCR are going to get a new company, that a lot of these exotic devices have been taken off the market because there is no money in it. They, they – it’s better to have something that’s not quite so exotic as that.

HT: Aha.

RM: will make more money.

JD: I don’t think Bill Norris is interested in extremely high printer speeds.

RM: No.

HT: Mhm.

[page 123]

RM: I’m not sure it pays anyways.

End of Day 2, Tape 2, Side 2

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  • DAYTON CODEBREAKERS DOCUMENTARY

    Our documentary aired on American Public Broadcasting from 2006-2018.
    DVDs can be obtained in several ways: If you live in the Dayton area, DVDs are sold at the Museum Store at Carillon Historical Park, and at the book store at the Wright Dunbar Interpretive Center, West Third Street. For special orders, contact Debbie Anderson by Email