NORC at Dahlgren

More about the Russian erasure incident, relayed by Susan L. Harrison, the daughter of Mary Louise McKee (pictured below): "They received a new device, placed behind the console, called a Stromberg-Carlson Cathode Ray Printer. It created output on the CRT and on paper. New codes were added to NORC's instruction set to plot data to the CRT using Cartesian coordinates. When Mother's group learned that four Soviets were scheduled to visit, they decided to display a greeting to show off the new device. Mother plotted each character in the Russian alphabet in coordinates and wrote a program to allow selection of characters to send to the screen. (Was this the first TrueType font?) She was allowed to do this work but only on her own time, after business hours. She sought help in composing the message from Captain Utgoff, but they had trouble deciding on the correct word to use for "computer." They changed their mind after composing the greeting and forgot to fix the article's gender, producing a grammatical error. When one of the Soviets saw the mistake, he whipped out his eraser and tried to correct it on screen."

"As a side note Marvin Maxwell, another employee at Dahlgren, was explaining the NORC to the visitors and bragging on its capabilities. They asked why there was only one, and he replied simply 'money.'"


Frank da Cruz / fdc@columbia.edu / Columbia University Computing History