RAND and the Information Evolution

RAND and the Information Evolution: A History in Essays and Vignettes

WILLIS H. WARE
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: 1
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 228
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7249/cp537rc
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  • Book Info
    RAND and the Information Evolution
    Book Description:

    This professional memoir describes RAND's contributions to the evolution of computer science, particularly during the first decades following World War II, when digital computers succeeded slide rules, mechanical desk calculators, electric accounting machines, and analog computers. The memoir includes photographs and vignettes that reveal the collegial, creative, and often playful spirit in which the groundbreaking research was conducted at RAND.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-4816-5
    Subjects: Technology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Dedication
    (pp. v-vi)
    Willis H. Ware
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Figures
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Photographs
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  7. Tables
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  8. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xix-xxii)
  9. Abbreviations
    (pp. xxiii-xxvi)
  10. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    This document describes, in rough chronological order, the achievements of a RAND department that has been named progressively Math-II, the numerical analysis department, the Computer Sciences Department (CSD), and the information sciences department. The department’s time span extended from the formation of Project RAND (predecessor to the RAND Corporation) in 1946 through 1990, when all discipline-oriented departments in RAND were dissolved in favor of a programmatic organization.

    From its earliest inception throughout much of its existence, the department had two missions and was two-pronged organizationally. It not only provided computing and programming services to the corporation but also conducted research...

  11. CHAPTER TWO The Department
    (pp. 5-20)

    RAND, the corporation, celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2008.² On May 14, 1948, Project RAND—an outgrowth of World War II—had separated from the Douglas Aircraft Company of Santa Monica, California, and became an independent, nonprofit organization. The new entity was chartered in the state of California to “further and promote scientific, educational, and charitable purposes for the public welfare and security of the United States.”

    Known initially as the RAND Corporation, it quickly developed a unique style of policy study, blending a scrupulous nonpartisanship posture with rigorous, fact-based analysis to tackle society’s most pressing problems. Early on, these...

  12. CHAPTER THREE RAND’s First Computer People
    (pp. 21-44)

    Who were the people who came first and helped shape the computing environment at the RAND Corporation? And, for that matter, in the evolving field of computing? The history of an organization is more than the sober presentation of such things as major accomplishments, key decisions, changes in corporate name, physical locations, and clients served.¹ While each is important in its own right, the people who made them happen have their own importance and place in history.²

    A few organizations and various wartime relationships were of high relevance in building the initial Project RAND and later RAND Corporation staff. Predominantly,...

  13. CHAPTER FOUR RAND’s Early Computers
    (pp. 45-66)

    At its inception in 1946, RAND drew on the established techniques and methodology that various branches of science and engineering had evolved over the years. These were predominantly labor-intensive hand methods that depended on spreadsheets to organize the flow of a numeric solution and were supported by desktop mechanical machines that could do arithmetic (calculators) or by calculations involving mathematical functions (the slide rule). Three companies, producing machines under the trade names of Marchant, Friden, and Monroe, dominated the small industry producing desktop mechanical calculators. There were also specialized mechanical machines intended primarily for the financial industry of the time...

  14. CHAPTER FIVE A Building for People with Computers
    (pp. 67-82)

    RAND’s plans to integrate analog and digital computers into its examination of complex problems affected its design of a new building to accommodate its growth.

    When RAND was considering construction of a new building, there was a lively debate about the “topology” that it should have. In particular, John Williams argued that the design should be such that it would encourage the random meeting of individuals because (he asserted that) such encounters and fortuitous conversations would encourage new and innovative ideas and solutions to client problems. He concluded that the preferred footprint would be a more-or-less square of offices surrounding...

  15. CHAPTER SIX Project Essays
    (pp. 83-158)

    A large number of major computer-science research projects were undertaken in the department over its lifetime. Generally, the computer-science research was dominated by hardware efforts in the early 1950s, progressed into mixed hardware and software efforts or software projects, and reached its peak in the 1960 and 1970s.¹ This chapter provides short essays on these projects in rough chronological order. Note that the first few projects were conducted when RAND was still in an EAM computing environment, before the advent of digital computing.

    Also included are examples of support to RAND clients through fortuitous meetings, personal interactions, advisory participations, committee...

  16. CHAPTER SEVEN Lore, Snippets, and Snapshots
    (pp. 159-174)

    Since there are inevitably heat-producing components in electronic equipment, there is always the risk of fire. IBM, as would any vendor, used nonflammable components to the maximum extent feasible, and, especially, it used wire whose insulation was fire resistant. In addition, it conducted flammability tests by deliberately overheating components and areas of a completed cabinet. Nonetheless, on an otherwise routine day, there suddenly was a shout of “Fire!” in the machine room.

    Fortunately, plentiful CO2fire extinguishers had been provided throughout the machine room, and the fire was quickly out. The unit in question—the mainframe, as the CPU was...

  17. CHAPTER EIGHT Epilogue
    (pp. 175-176)

    Well, that’s it—the story of the RAND department that was born as part of the mathematics division, became independent and flourished until all departments were abolished, and left its mark on the world with many notable achievements.

    This is not an exhaustively complete recounting. I hope that this telling includes most, perhaps even all, of the highlights of the computer-science efforts and gives at least a taste of what the department’s application-programming side was all about. There is much more to the latter, but its chronicling is for others to do. Similarly, there is a story of the computer...

  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 177-190)
  19. Index
    (pp. 191-202)