Columbia University Computing History   

IBM NORC Digital Logic Unit

NORC Digital Logical Unit
NORC Digital Logical Unit
Photo of a "stuffed and mounted" Digital Logic Unit from the IBM NORC submitted by Gerhard S. Schoenthal, Charlottesville, Virginia, who says: "The faceplate information is as follows:

NORD 11866

"The unit was presented to my grandmother, Emma Payne McCall at some point during her tenure. She worked there from the 50's to the 70's. She bequeathed the unit to me." Gerhard's mother, Rosemary, McCall Schoenthal, contributed the following biograpy (January 2009):

Emma Payne McCall, my mother, went to work at the U.S. Naval Weapons Laboratory in the early 1950's. There were very few women in positions other than clerical ones at the time. Only having a high school education, she went in as a GS 1 and her main job when the NORC first arrived was as a key punch operator. She was pretty aggressive and rose in rank and position pretty rapidly. The NORC was a very large machine and needed lots of operators to make it function. Information was punched on cards that were processed unto tapes that could be used on the computer. The NORC was never shut down as it took a lot to “reboot” it so there were NORC operators on duty around the clock. At that time the operators were male and my mother could not be an operator as they would not let a woman work shift work with men. Later when things changed she was admitted to the “club” as she called it. To her it was always an exciting job with work on helping to discover an asteroid, the NORC, and the work with NASA. For several years she worked for NASA and always referred to it as working in “Space”. She continued to work on computers until her retirement as a GS 11 in the mid 70's. She was given the 46A NORC Digital Logic Unit as a memento at her retirement. During the early days of Dahlgren, the base was a part of the surrounding community with off-base people be allowed to use the recreational facilities and clubs. On Armed Forces Day every year they opened “K” Lab where the NORC was located to the community. Demonstrations of the NORC were given all day long. Jack Darling, an artist and co-worker, would draw pictures on the NORC and hand them out, birthday cards were made and the NORC played music. Also, there was a steady supply of confetti (made from the key punch chips) that was supplied to the schools and anyone who wanted some.

Gerhard notes, “there was recently [October 2008] a reunion of NSWC employees in Dahlgren. I know some of my grandmothers co-workers were there. I think they are planning to do it again in 10 years. Might be a good chance for a historian to get some good information if they were interested. Please see: <<- (sorry, link defunct)

Columbia University Computing History Frank da Cruz / [email protected] This page created: January 2009 Last update: 4 April 2021