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Information Technology (IT) Pioneers

Retirees and former employees of Unisys, Lockheed Martin, and their heritage companies

Burroughs/Sperry, Chapter 4

1. Introduction, Burroughs bought Sperry to form UNISYS!

This Legacy chapter is a place holder for stories that don't easly fit within other anthology sections of his web site. [Genealogy diagram by retired UNISYS Fellow Ron Q. Smith.]

Part of the VIP Club history/legacy/heritage is traced to Burroughs which purchased Sperry in 1986 to form UNiversal Information SYStems.
  Marketing and Field Service functions for all Burroughs products had offices in the Twin Cities from the early 50s until the 80s.  Then their support was combined in a new building at 3199 Pilot Knob Road in Eagan, across the parking lot from the Sperry Defense operations which had become a part of Lockheed Martin MS2.
And, the UNISYS Roseville operations were merged into this facility during 2017. [lab]

The Pilot Knob facility is referred to as the 'MACS' building in VIP Club literature as we had had volunteers serving at Blood Mobile drives there.  The Club has used their visitor's conference room for board meetings and a few programs. A very nice benefit for the VIP Club is that Unisys continues to print and mail our periodic newsletters and occasionally print nametags for our various events. 

A small group of former Burroughs employees meet for lunch the second Tuesday at the Mall of America, 3rd floor North Food Court.

We are seeking volunteers to expand these parts of our Twin Cities history.

2. Sperry

{Editor's note: At the right is a 1985 75th anniversary letter & stamp donated by Ron Shurson, retired Roseville employee.}

Retyped below from a 1984 paper
"A brief History of Sperry Corporation".
Sperry is historically linked to many of the major business machine advances of the past hundred years as well as to the invention of the world's first electronic computer in 1946. 

    The Sperry story begins in 1873 with the introduction of the first commercial typewriter by E. Remington & Sons of Ilion N.Y.  After a half century of business operation, E. Remington & Sons was merged with several other business machine makers to form a new company in 1927 - Remington Rand, Inc. During the next two decades, Remington Rand earned an enviable reputation as a developer of financial record and filing systems and a manufacturer of typewriters, mechanical calculators and punched card systems. But the acquisition of two small companies in 1950 and 1952 would form the nucleus of an entirely new kind of business which continues to be reflected in the organization today.

    In 1950, Remington Rand purchased the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation of Philadelphia, PA.  A few years earlier, while affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania, J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly had designed and assembled ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator.) This huge electronic computer, the first of its kind in the world, was built to solve ballistics problems for the U.S. Army and was hundreds of times faster than any of its mechanical counterparts.  The success of ENIAC prompted Eckert and Mauchly to form their own computer company in 1947.  In 1949, they completed BINAC (Binary Automatic Computer) for the Northrop Corporation in California.  Another computer which they called UNIVAC (Universal Automatic Computer) was only partially completed when the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation was acquired by Remington Rand in 1950.  the first model of the UNIVAC I Series was delivered to the United States Bureau of the Census in 1951.

    In 1952, Remington Rand purchased Engineering Research Associates (ERA) of St. Paul, Minn.  ERA had been organized in 1946 by a group of World War II mathematicians and engineers who had developed considerable expertise in electronic cryptography and special purpose military electronic systems.  In 1950, ERA delivered two electronic computers to the United States Navy and Tahoma Institute of Technology.  After ERA was acquired by Remington Rand, each of the computer models in this initial series was identified as a UNIVAC 1101.

    In 1955, Remington Rand merged with the Sperry Corporation, forming Sperry Rand.  The Sperry Corporation had been founded in 1910 by Elmer A. Sperry, a prolific inventor and applied scientist.  Then called the Sperry Gyroscope Company, the firm engineered navigational gyrocompasses for maritime applications and aircraft direction finding and stabilization equipment including the automatic pilot.  Sperry was incorporated in 1933, and had acquired Vickers Incorporated, manufacturer of efficient, low-cost devices for powering hydraulic control systems, in 1937, and the New Holland Machine Company, producer of agricultural equipment, in 1947.  Operating as Sperry Rand, the company established the Sperry Phoenix Division, manufacturer of flight systems equipment, in 1957, and separated the computer operations from the Remington office products division, forming the Univac Division in 1962. 

    The 1969s and 70s were decades of organizational stability and business growth in Sperry's key markets.  The company expanded its international operations through formation of joint ventures in Scandinavia and Japan an establishment of engineering and manufacturing sites in Canada, Belgium Germany, France, Scotland and England.  In 1979, with the planned divestment of Sperry's electric shaver and office products operations, Sperry Rand Corporation changed its name to Sperry Corporation to streamline the corporate identity.  The 1984 divestment of Sperry Vickers further focused the corporate mission on designing and producing high technology, electronic-based systems and products for commercial business, government, defense, aerospace and maritime markets.

    Today (1984), Sperry, with corporate headquarters in New York City, is composed of five operating groups:

  • Information Systems Group (40,000 employees) headquartered in Blue Bell, Pa., a leading manufacturer of commercial computer systems, peripheral equipment, software and services.
  • Defense Products Group (14,000 employees) headquartered in Eagan, Minn., a leader in real-time, high technology militarized information processing and support systems and products.
  • Aerospace and Marine Group (9,000 employees) headquarter in Phoenix, Az., a leading manufacturer of systems and instrumentation for commercial, defense and general aviation and maritime markets.
  • Systems Management Group (5,000 employees) headquartered in Great Neck, N.Y., a leading prime contractor to domestic and international government markets specializing in electronic-based systems.
  • Sperry New Holland (5,000 employees) headquartered in New Holland, Pa., the world's largest manufacturer of specialized agricultural equipment.

     Since the 1952 acquisition of ERA, the company's operations in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota have been steadily expanded.  Today, Sperry's employment in Minnesota numbers 14,000, ranking the company as the State's fourth largest industrial employer.

  • The Defense Products Group is headquartered in Eagan, Minn., and operates 12 divisional facilities in the St. Paul area. This group includes the Air Traffic Control aystems development and support departments.
  • Information Systems Group's System Products Division designs and manufactures large-scale computers and components at facilities in suburban Roseville, Brooklyn Park, and Eagan, and in outstate Jackson, Minn and Clear Lake IA. 
  • A regional Information Systems Group asset reclamation center is located in Mendota Heights,
  • Eagan is also the site of regional operations for Sperry New Holland.

[re-typed by LABenson]

3. RCA 

This section is a placeholder for information about RCA before their computer line was acquired by UNIVAC.

In this Chapter

  1. Introduction [left]
  2. Sperry
  3. RCA

Chapter 4 edited 4/15/22.