Mainframes: The GE 225 and the Birth of BASIC


Mr Adams finds his new checking account very useful instead of collecting the money. Direct wreck from the Ellendale National Bank. The company does it through its own bank like many other banks it sends its checks to the Federal Reserve Bank for Collection Action. The Federal Reserve Bank is set up to handle thousands of checks from hundreds of banks in a single day in nineteen gene. forty-seven a check winds. Its Way through a bank to get the positive and legions of bank workers are clocking in countless hours to deal with all those checks. The Post War economy was booming but that meant banks were now drowning and paperwork. They were forced to close at two PM just to leave time time for filling out ledgers by hand and they were still falling behind a fast powerful machine was urgently needed to keep up with the pace of business over Bank of America. They had millions of checks to handle each day. Here's William Casio professor at the Kellogg School of Management Cement and northwestern university. Can you imagine the world banking without computers. I mean this is heavy paperwork intensive in the street and particularly the case of Bank of America with all the multiple branches. So there's all this information that they want quickly and To be able to communicate and also due process it So that was really important for for such a large company and I couldn't. They understood that computers was the way of future. So in nineteen fifty fifty be of a contracted Stanford Research Institute to figure out how to automate the handling of all those checks it took Sri five years ears to build a prototype which they called the electronic recording machine accounting or IRMA. The machine had over a million feet of wiring Eight thousand vacuum tubes and weighed about twenty five tons it has the potential to handle fifty thousand transactions a day Bank of America with keen to start producing the IRMA. Right away so they sent out a request for proposal to electrons manufacturers to bid on on the job of course everyone figured the winner would be the Juggernaut of business machines. Miss Snow White herself. Ibm Doc Baker was the VP of electrons division over at GE and he knew his boss quarter didn't want to move into IBM's territory. He new computers were out of bounds when he got wind of Bank of America. RFP Will Baker saw an opening he didn't want to miss he approached Barney. Oldfield the manager of GE's Microwave Laboratory in Palo Alto which was the nearest facility to Sri and he made oldfield a proposition. Here's John Joseph and associate professor of strategy at the University of California Irvine. You know I think here was was somebody who was a very successful aggressive entrepreneur type at GE and was a savvy manager and businessman and saw this as a huge opportunity to grow the division Baker along with Oldfield was able to convince as their boss coordinator that this would be a special purpose process control system not a general purpose computer not something that would upset IBM. Ge was certainly not going into the computer business. The reason I think Coordin- eventually capitulated was that that he put a condition on them going after it and said just this contract. We don't want to enter the business machine market or generally we we want enter specifically this particular bid and you can go after it and so he said go coroner let them go ahead with the RFP feeling confident that they wouldn't win the contract anyway. Let him blow off some creative steam and then old fueled hand-delivered their proposal Rosal to the Bank San Francisco office and waited then much to everyone's surprise IBM pulled Out of the race and even more unexpectedly. GE's proposal rose to the top Bank of America. Awarded them the contract not any of the other technology manufacturers the underdogs got it the underdogs. Ge one the multi million dollar their contract on April Ninth Nineteen fifty-six be of as board of directors accepted GE's proposal Baker signed and a thirty one million dollar contract without running it by his boss Corner. This impossible project was becoming Lille. All Oldfield Oldfield needed now was a place to build the armies and Oh yeah an actual computer

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