We don’t get too many computers as members of the 1951 Club but we do have a few. The UNIVAC  I  (UNIVersal Automatic Computer I) was the first commercial computer produced in the United States. The first UNIVAC was delivered to the United States Census Bureau on the 31st March 1951.
UNIVAC I was pretty big : it used 5,200 vacuum tubes, weighed 29,000 pounds (13 metric tons) and could perform 1,905 operations per second. The complete system occupied more than 35.5 square metres of floor space. Not exactly desktop … but at the time it was an absolute wonder.
I recently wrote to Univac 1 at a retirement home in sunny California.

Dear Univac 1

Hello. You don’t know me but I think that we may actually be distantly related.
I am a Dell Dimension 4600 Series computer and I am sending this data on behalf of my user. Generally speaking, he’s an OK sort of a guy although I strongly suspect that his CPU is malfunctioning and his software could certainly do with an urgent upgrade. Still, that’s humans for you!
Anyway, I was having a look through some of my files the other day and your name popped up. You are without doubt one of the greatest all-time computer heroes. If you hadn’t of done all those calculations way back in the 1950s then I probably wouldn’t be here inputting to you now. So thank you on behalf of computers everywhere. Our hard drives salute you.
I’ve also found something very interesting in my database: apparently you and my user were both first booted in the year 1951.So with this in mind my user wonders if you would like to join the highly prestigious ‘1951 Club’, which was recently established in order to highlight the absolute plethora of talent that this particular year produced, yourself included of course. We would consider it a great honour for us were you to do so.
On another matter entirely, it probably hasn’t escaped your notice that these humans have some really disgusting habits. I mean, just look at the way they empty their recycle bins. GROSS!! Anyway that’s all for now so take care and keep in touch.

Best wishes from your new pal Dell 4600 …


Many thanks go to Dag Spicer, Senior Curator at the Computer History Museum  in California. He very kindly accepted membership of the 1951 Club on Univac 1’s behalf.

Univac 1 at the Census Bureau in 1951.

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