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Information Technology (IT) Pioneers

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

 Special Purpose Computers, Chapter 58


The U.S. Navy stopped development of military computers in 1994, they effected new computer system implementations with Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) system implementations, sometimes referred to as embedded applications. We have had a major embedded computer contract [AN/UYQ-70] since 1994.

  Even a little before then, a CP-901 replacement - the CP-2044 was built using Motorola 68040 microprocessor components. This early step made UNISYS and subsequently, Lockheed Martin a leading edge COTS systems competitor.

2. 1624

Bill Bauer was the project engineer for these units. [lab]
The Sperry type 1624 was designed to emulate the Computer Control Company DDP-24 machine using Micro-Program Controller techniques. The DDP-24 was a van mounted general purpose digital computer, The Computer History Museum has a unit in their artifact collection.
Sperry 1624 units were packaged into commercial 19" racks then used for an Air Force training program. Specifically, these units were part of a Minuteman status and command simulator used for training. More about the launch computer at We at Sperry had developed and manufactured the computers used for the Minuteman missle system,

Data submitted by Lars Brinkhoff from the bit-savers' GS3577 document; photos from the Lawshe Memorial Museum via Keith Myhre.

3. Computer Types

3.1 Universal Digital Trainer (UDT)

The CP-788, UNIVAC type # 1215,was built using printed circuit cards from the 1218 computer, with many of the same salient features but 15 bits instead of 18; a lesser memory addressing capacity. The memory speed was 8 usec. Don Mager was the lead logic designer for this development. First unit delivered July 5th, 1962. This also had a commercial U-422 type designation. [lab]

Richard Wagner donated a technical manual to the Lawshe Memorial Museum, scanned for readers, UNIVAC Digital Trainer Tech Manual, 124 MB in size.  Thanks to volunteer Keith Myhre (11/27/2020.)  

U-422 The Southwest Museum of Engineering, Communications and Computation in AZ has a unit,  Archivist Ed Sharpe would like to get it functioning, needs help.

The SMECC 422 unit is shown at the left, it has  UNIVAC 422 on the frame above the operator panel.  At the left is a Remington typewriter with a paper tape punch and a paper tape reader. This photo came from Ed Sharpe, Archivist at SMECC.

Shown at the right is a similar unit labeled UNIVAC digital Trainer.  It has a Freeden Typewriter with a paper tape punch and a paper tape reader.  This came from the photo collection at the Lawshe Memorial Museum, scanned by Keith Myhre.

Both of these units have a left control section and a right Printed Circuit card array.   Unlike the other image (below) from the Lawshe Museum that has two racks of PC cards.  The nameplate on this pictured unit says UNIVAC Digital Trainer  Unit.  This looks just like the prototype that is in a scanned sheet,, provided by the designer Don Mager.  BTW, if you as a web chapter reader can identify either the lady or gentleman in the snapshots, please send a note to with the name, this chapter, and section number. 

3.2 NIKE by Ron Schroeder

 When I first went to work at Remington Rand Univac, I worked on the Nike project. There were two computers, the TIC (Target Intercept Computer) and MAR I (GPDC) machines built circa 1960 that were quite advanced.They were followed by a prototype CLC machine that I believe never went into production. Much of that work went to CDC when Joe Bloomfield [sp?] left the company.
   George Gray does provide some info in his Sperry Military Computers paper. John Alton's career summary also touches on this computer type.

From Lowell Benson: The Nike computer system is memorialized at the University of Minnesota along the Scholars' walk as shown in these snapshots. Info for these two engravings came from Mr. Arndt's four boxes of documents contributed to the Charles Babbage Institute. I had worked with Rollie during the summer of 1963.


3.3 Reduced Instruction Set Computer (RISC):

   An example of specialized engineering was the 1987 RISC project. In the mid '80s a Sperry Univac design team proposed and was awarded a contract by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to develop a radiation-hardened MIPS RISC microprocessor chip design. Lowell Benson was named as the Technical Program Manager. Don Bennett was the architect for the design concept. John Porter was the lead engineer doing the design and simulation. Dr. Vic Wells was the Semi-Conductor facility leader for chip processing. A paper design with a logic simulation demonstration was delivered for Phase I. RCA and Westinghouse had a parallel phase I contracts. We and RCA were awarded Phase II contracts to build and demonstrate chip set operation - a basic processor and a floating point processor. Don Bennett and I presented our design at a classified conference held on Hilton Head island off of the South Carolina coast. 
  After Burroughs bought out Sperry and we became Unisys, the new management decided to close our Eagan semi-conductor facility which was supposed to be the builder of this Phase II radiation hardened chip set. Between Engineering's Jim Stewart and PM's Lowell Benson, fifteen 'sand factories' were visited to ascertain their technical capabilities. Jim and I then prepared a Statement of Work (SOW) and Request For Quote (RFQ) documents which were sent to six of these fifteen facilities that we had determined were capable of building the pre-requisite 2-micron devices using our design files. Three of the six responded to the RFQ. After using a Kepner/Tregoe evaluation method, we selected United Technologies in Colorado Springs to build from our design files. We then did an update to our design files to adapt the design to their processing design rules. They built, we demonstrated, our extensive simulation led to first pass operational silicon chips during phase II. Great job by John Porter, I had hired him a couple yers earlier as he graduated from the U of MN.  {Editor's Note: We ended up with a few spare parts from the assembly process. As program manager, I kept one to use in presentations, shown at the right - now in the Lawshe Memorial Museum.}

This was the world's first radiation hardened 32-bit microprocessor on a single chip according to our CIA sponsor!

   In spite of having to change to a new manufacturing facility, we were within budget on this Cost Plus Fixed Fee contract. We were only a month behind the original proposed schedule. According to our CIA technical contact, RCA was four months behind and over spent.
   The CIA then opened the competition to four companies for Phase III, production and integration. Neil Hahn brought in a 'systems engineer' from Harris [I don't recall his name] to lead our proposal effort. WE LOST, a minor moral victory was that the CIA directed the winning bidder to use United Technologies as the primary manufacturer of their chip set. [lab]

3.4 CP-2044:

The CP-2044 used three 68040 microprocessor chips to effect an emulation of the CP-901 ISA as a next generation replacement for the core processor in the Lockheed P-3C ASW aircraft for NAVAIR. The 1st chip fetched an instruction from memory, the 2nd chip executed the instruction, and the third chip took care of the Input/Output processing. [lab]
   Today the P-3C’s anti-surface warfare improvement program (AIP) mission system is used on 98% of the world’s maritime surveillance aircraft (MSA). Since the early 1960’s we have contributed to more than five million successful MSA flight hours.
CP2044 people The Lockheed Martin Clearwater manufacturing facility donated a CP-2044 unit to the legacy committee for display at the Lawshe Memorial Museum in S. St. Paul.  In this November 10th 2012 photo from Keith Myhre are: Gary Reetz, Chuck Hobus, CP-2044, Tricia Myhre, Les Nelson, Bob Pagac, and Art Francis.

If this computer looks a bit odd, it is. Although the electronics took up significantly less volume than CP-901, the unit was built to fit into the same footprint the P-3C aircraft - even to the same height so that the existing cable connections would reach (these are the red connector covers at the top of the unit. The maintenance panel has a rectangular digital display instead of the two 30-bit wide LED indicators for internal register display.  The screen like front has an air filter as the rear cooling fans such air through the unit's heat exchangers.  The beige paint is the same as used on the CP-901.

More information about the defense application is in the systems airborne chapter and the 30-bit computer chapter. [lab]

3.5 AN/USQ-69 & AN/UYQ-70:

In the late 1970’s personal computers (PC) were only just in their infancy after being conceived by many like Bill Gates and Steven Jobs. The engineers at the Naval Electronics Command (NAVELEX) came to Sperry Univac, providers of the Navy’s AN/UYK-7 standard large scale computer and AN/UYK-20 standard small scale computer to see if a personal computer could be designed and built for usage aboard the Navy’s ships and submarines. Years later laptops and Pansonics’s Toughbook© are as common as telephones, smart-phones, and tablets, but in the 1970’s, there was nothing like a PC that could survive the rigors of an at sea environment. The AN/USQ-69 was designed, developed, and produce to do just that.  Although developed as a 'ruggedized personal computer', the Navy chose to assign its' nomenclature as a display  - see  - section 6.3.

Q-70: In 1993 Unisys Defense Systems wrote a proposal to replace the USQ-69 with more robust processing.  We were announced as the winner in 1994.

The family of ruggedized display consoles and processors comprised by the Navy’s AN/UYQ-70 Advanced Display System is the Government’s largest commercial off-the-shelf program. Q-70 has successfully harnessed the rapidly advancing computing technology of the commercial realm through its ground-breaking technology refresh process. Thousands of Q-70s populate the Navy’s subsurface, surface and airborne platforms.

The LMCO MS2 team delivered the 8,000th AN/UYQ-70, or Q-70, combat console suite to the U.S. Navy. A ribbon cutting ceremony to commemorate the milestone was held at MS2’s Clearwater, Fla. facility on March 2, 2011 - attended by over 100 Q-70 program team members and Clearwater employees. John Nikolai, Director, C4 programs for MS2 Undersea Systems, spoke at the event and commemorated the dedication and commitment of the team. "For the past three years it’s been my privilege to lead the Q-70 team at Lockheed Martin,” Nikolai said. “You delivered to the fleet with reliability five times the requirement and collectively you’ve saved the Navy over $1.8 billion under the Q-70 contract. The team delivers what it promises.

 Ceremony attendees also heard from Robert Jackson, Deputy Program Manager for the U.S. Navy’s Submarine Combat System Program Office (PMS-425). Jackson spoke about the value the program has brought to the Navy, saying “The one thing that never comes up is reliability problems with this product. That’s something everyone needs to be proud of…because it’s appreciated. [The Navy] is taking your product into environments that are harsh…and the product stands up, day in and day out.”

MS2 [UNISYS/Loral/Lockheed Martin] has been the lead contractor on the Q-70 program since it was first awarded in 1994. Components of the system can be found on surface warships, aircraft and shore stations around the United States. Q-70’s have also benefited other internal MS2 products over the past decade, such as the Aegis combat system found on Ticonderoga-class cruisers and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and the E-2C Hawkeye Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft.
The Q70’s have been primarily built by our teammate/subcontractor DRS Technologies in Johnstown, PA [former congressman Jack Murtha’s district] along with a subset of units being built in Clearwater. Clearwater is now building about 40% of the units. The program is approaching $3B over its life – not bad for a projected loss leader that no one really wanted in the 1990’s

This unit was installed in the USS Minnesota, SSN 783. This submarine naming ceremony is illustrated at the right, photos in this section are from an LMCO news release. John Westergren

3.6 T3097 - Portable (suitcase) Computer

This Sperry developed unit had the keyboard stored in the suitcase cover for transporting, it weighed about 35 pounds. The BIOS was set to bootstrap from the A drive, a 5.25" floppy disc drive. It was used for the CORONA system according to page 432 of GS3577.  The Legacy Committee has two of these units at the Lawshe Memorial Museum.




3.7 Central Logic and Control (CLC) module

Dear Sir, I was doing research on the computer system at the Cavalier Air Force Station (CAFS) and came upon your web site. The computer at Cavalier Air Force Station (AFS) is a Univac CLC model 2.
See right column, page 4 of Univac_Third_Generation computers.
The CLC computer is still in operation at the PARCS radar system, located at CAFS, North Dakota. It was designed in the mid-60's and was built somewhere between 1969-1973. It has been (and still is) in continuous operation (24/7) since 1973. The Cavalier Air Force Station was part of the ABM system that was built in the 1969-1973 time-frame.
As you are probably already aware, the CLC model 2 is a multi-processor computer that is expandable up to 10 PUs (fifteen (15) according to other reference material I have read), 16VS, 16PS, 2T&S, and up to 2IOCs (up to 4 depending upon which reference material you read.) The memory is all core-memory with water cooling used on all racks, and water and air for the core memory units. The hardware is software partition able to allow the formation of two separate computers of varying sizes dependant upon software requirements, and available hardware.
The CLC in operation at Cavalier Air Force station has a configuration of 7 processor units (or PUs), and two (2) Input/Output controllers (IOCs). The memory is core-memory, with 16 variable stores and 10 program stores.
There was a 10PU, 16PS, 16VS, 2IOC, 2T&S CLC model 2 configuration at the MSR system located at Langdon ND. This system was shutdown and dismantled as a result of the SALT treaty in about 1976-1977 time frame. The MSR CLC was also dismantled and some of the parts delivered to PARCS in 1977-1978, with the remaining CLC pieces being sent to DRMO and scrapped. There was also a CLC model 2 with a 1PU, 3VS, & 3PS.

from Ronald Belanus - June 2, 2009

4.0 Special Purpose Computers

June 2008 - Recollections from 40+ Years Ago - John Alton [with help]

4.1. Introduction

Following is an unclassified summary of special purpose computers built under US Navy contract by Sperry Univac during the period from the mid 1950s through 1967. These computers in development sequence were called: Blueplate I, Blueplate II, Thornhill, Blondell, Belter I, Belter II, and Seacrest.

The application of these machines involved solving very large computing problems. This was accomplished by using an exceptionally large quantity of logic and memory circuits and by implementing most of what would normally be done by software with hardware circuits instead. These machines had roughly ten times the number of logic circuits as our general purpose machines at the time.
The following descriptions focus primarily on Thornhill because it was the first in the series that used new technology followed by other machines which used essentially the same basic technology.

Thornhill Cabinet Structure

a) General
The Thornhill machine was housed in a large cabinet 35 ft long X 8 ft high and 7 ½ ft. wide. The cabinet contained three major sections, the electronics, the air handler portion of the cooling system, and the power supplies. Photo 1 [right] shows the cabinet under construction. On the left are the power supplies. In the center is the air handler portion of the cooling system. On the right is the electronics end of the cabinet.

b) Electronics

  • The electronics end of the cabinet has two banks for electronics with a walkway between them for access to the back side of the chassis. Photo 2 [below left] shows an end view where the chassis will be installed. There are five bays on one side and 4 bays on the other. Each bay contains 15 chassis; 3 wide and 5 high for a total of 135 chassis.
  • The chassis were made up of a stack of alternating printed circuit back panels and insulating layers topped by a ¼ inch thick aluminum ground plate. The back panels were made up of many [up to 20] 15” X 12” two layer printed circuit boards with plated through holes. The back panel boards and the ground plate were interconnected with electro-less nickel and gold plated roll pins that also formed part of the sockets which accepted the logic and memory circuit cards. Photo 3 [below right]shows the ground plate with white plastic insulators that were molded into the ground plate. It shows ground bushings being inserted into the ground plate to connect the circuit cards to the ground plate, two bushings per connector area. The roll pins that interconnect the back panel boards will terminate at the surface of the white insulators, forming the socket for the circuit cards. The circuit cards, which were made with discreet components, were unique in that the connector pins were not straight, but waved such that there were multiple opposed pressure points where they mated with the back panel roll pins. This provided a highly reliable connection. Single width cards were 1” wide X 4” high. Cards were also made in multiple widths. Photo 4 [below left] shows a partially populated chassis.
  • Printed circuit routing for back panel artwork was generated by automated design programs developed for the project. These programs also drove a large flat-bed plotter which rendered the artwork used for fabrication. Photo 5 [below right] shows artwork, photo mask for etching, and a finished back panel board.
  • Clocking the Thornhill circuits at 10 MHz was a major challenge. It was solved by synchronizing the clock with fine tuning the timing circuits to nanosecond accuracy at each of the 135 chassis in the machine.

c) Power Supply and Distribution

  •  The two large power supply cabinets and power supplies were developed by the Bogue Electric Corp under contract from the Thornhill project. Five voltages were provided; among them +5V, +15V, and a negative 5V. Two thousand amps were delivered by the +5V supply. Lesser current was delivered by the other power supplies.
  • The power was distributed to the chassis by a series of bus bars. The main bus bars traversed horizontally along the cabinet bottom and top of each side of the cabinet from the power supply to every bay of chassis. Photo 6 [below left] shows one of the four bus bar sets. Smaller vertical bus bars carried power to the chassis stacked 5 high and 3 wide in each bay. The main busses were made up of 2 copper bars, each ½ inch thick and 4 inches high, separated by a very thin dielectric. This design was chosen to maximize the capacitance and minimize the bus inductance.
  • Photo 7 [below right] shows (between the power supplies and the air handler) the bus bar terminations that will eventually be connected to the power supply.
  • A 150 horsepower motor-generator set provided ac power to the power supplies.

d) Cooling system

  • The cooling system provided 35 tons of air conditioning, built as a conventional refrigerant evaporator – condensing unit system with an added 100 Kw reheat unit. This allowed the air to be cooled below system requirements to dry the air by condensation then reheated to the correct cooling temperature for the electronics.
  • The evaporator unit is housed in the air handler shown on photo 1. The air handler is driven by a 20 horsepower blower. The compressor and make-up water tank are located elsewhere and are shown in photo 8. [below]


The condensing coil was in the cooling tower located on the roof of the building.

• Photo 6 also shows plenum air outlets for each column of chassis on one side of the cabinet. Return air would be captured by similar boots above each column of chassis. The same design applies to the other side of the cabinet.

4.3 Blondell

 The same technology was used on Blondell as was used on Thornhill.

4.4  Belters I and II Cabinet Structure

a) General
The Belter cabinets; housing the electronics, air handler and power supplies were 32 ft long, 8 ft high and 7 ½ ft wide, three feet shorter then the Thornhill. The system also included a 1230 Computer, 1532 I/O Console, 1240 [2 handler] Magnetic Tape Unit, and our Emergency Control Unit for switching the two Belter machines.
b) Electronics
The logic and memory circuits were packaged as in Thornhill, using many of the same card types. The memory circuits were done with integrated circuits.

4.5. Other Data

a) Circuits and Packaging

 Machine Logic Memory Packaging
Blueplate I Transfer Circuits [like USQ-17]   Magnetic Core USQ-17 [Note 1]
Blueplate II Transfer Circuits [like USQ-17]  Magnetic Core AN/USQ-17 [Note 1]
Thornhill Transistor-Transistor Logic (TTL)   Magnetic Core
Thin Film NDRO
Thin Film DRO
Described in par 4.2 b), bullet 2 above 
Blondell As in Thornhill  As in Thornhill except no NDRO Ditto
Belter  As in Thornhill Integrated Circuits   Ditto
Seacrest  As in Thornhill Integrated Circuits    Ditto

             Note 1: Discrete component PC cards and wire wrap back panels were used on the Blueplate machines.

b) Miscellaneous

 Machine Input Data Means Design Area Build Area
Blueplate I Punched Paper Tape  Building 3 Basement Plant 3
Blueplate II Punched Paper Tape Building 3 Basement  Plant 3
Thornhill Punched Paper Tape  Building 6*  Building 6
Blondell 1230 Computer  Building 6  Building 6
Belter 1230 Computer  Building 6  Building 6
Seacrest 1230 Computer  Building 6  Building 6

 *Building 6 was located just east of the main Plant 2 office building on Minnehaha Ave. in St. Paul. This building had an extra fence surrounding it to provide extra security for the area.  There is more about the Building 3 Basement and Building 6 in Our Stories #190, February: As the Sperry/Navy use of Plant 2 faded away in the early 80s, a new tenant phased into parts of the area.

4.6. People Consulted

Curt Bute, Joe Kimlinger, Gordon LaValley [Provided significant data on hardware design], Wayne Olson, Jack Pollack [Provided significant data on Belter and Seacrest], and Norm Petrowski.

5. Special Purpose by Wayne Olson

I came across these items while moving and reorganizing some files. I also found my unclassified log books from 1961 to about 1965 covering a lot of Thornhill design issues. However there seems to be a big gap after that. I think I probably only used company logs which I had to return when I retired.

When I have time I will try to condense what I can learn from the log books.
 Included are most of the other names working on Thornhill. I have some information on the various memories in Thornhill, both DRO & NDRO plated wire I believe. We had a memory test setup. Flippo is mentioned and I don't remember what that is. I also have lists of card types and possibly some schematics.

I did not see anything about Seacrest, Belter & Blondell. So that is still lost in the fog of my memory. If you have any info to jog my memory, I would appreciate seeing it.

I don't remember much about Blueplate II. I think it had U-shaped frame with a pull-out power supply to get access to the inside with a fold-down landing gear to support it's weight. It was classified: but I really don't remember much anyway. It was designed while Special Applications was in the Navy Basement at Plant 2.
 [By the way, I found a picture of Plant 2.] Carl Koehler was lead logic designer. He worked his way up from being a technician with no formal education. He was legendary for his neat logic drawings done in No. 2 pencil. He always had a sharp one over his ear.

His brother Howard was part of the Thornhill logic design team of about 5 people including myself.   Wayne Olson

6.0 MOD 0

bby Lyle Franklin

Lowell: I went to work at Univac in July 1956 during the beginning of a massive hiring for Mod 0.  As Dick Roessler was not ready to begin the Mod 0 training class, I was assigned to the test stand in Plant 3. I reported to the test stand and worked for Bob Groeshen's crew. At that time we had orders for over 158 units. I do not know whether down payments were required. We could get the units running by inserting capacitors in the rats nest point to point wiring of the back bays. If they were detected the unit did not meet print so they were rejected and reworked until the print was changed or we hid the capacitors but included our changes in the drawings that went with the machines.

In the interim IBM worked with their customers to modify their facilities and did the debugging and final testing on customer site. Their "stick" was the machines were rental and the only cost to the customer commenced after acceptance at the facility. As computers were very new customers such as 3M waited years before the installation of their machine and longer until debug and final acceptance. IBM had the money to wait but their customer base was held captive as the market was using other IBM equipment in the interim. Remember before unbundling IBM with the better electric typewriter and could hold their customer base. On the other hand we needed the revenue but our long association with the government had influenced our methodology of billing after final delivery and final testing to print.

When Jimmy Rand sold Remington Rand to Sperry they expected a large influx of cash to save them but really received a cash eater. Sperry was on a going out of business curve and Gyro had decreased from 25,000 to under 5,000. Univac was using up funding that Sperry wanted for Gyro product development. The other Sperry equipments were analog. Big problem with our relationship with Gyro and Ford Instrument Company, the producer of the standard Navy fire control computer. Any funding we received was grudgingly given.

Hope this gives you another viewpoint - Lyle


In this Chapter

  1. Introduction [left]
  2. 1624
  3. Computer Types: UDT | NIKE | RISC | CP-2044 | USQ-69 and UYQ-70 | T3097 | CLC
  4. Special Purpose by John Alton
  5. Special Purpose notes by Wayne Olson
  6. MOD 0 by Lyle Franklin

Chapter 58 edited 10/03/2022