An image of Heer de Beer

Heer de Beer.org

Exploring the Computational Medium

Early Dutch Computers

Huub de Beer

2008

Download my bibliography on the Dutch Computer pionieers 1950-1965 as a PDF file or as a bibtex file.

During 2007 and the first months of 2008 I participated in the project Computerpioniers, pionierscomputers (Computer pioneers, pioneering computers) at the University of Amsterdam, doing research on the Early Dutch computers and the people building and using them in the 1950s. An interesting period indeed. A short summary in English follows below.

I wrote a couple of reports in Dutch:

Summary

It started all in the late 1940s at two different places in the Netherlands: the Mathematisch Centrum in Amsterdam and the Central Laboratory of the Dutch PTT in The Hague. During the early years of the 1950s the first Dutch computers were build. In the following years several other computers were build, like the ARRA and ARMAC. Later, also Philips in Eindhoven started building computers, in 1956 the PETER and in 1960 the PASCAL and STEVIN.

All three computer construction efforts resulted in a commercial production of computers. After the construction of the PTERA at PTT, W.L. van der Poel began with the design of PTT's next computer. The further development and production of this machine was done by Standard Telephones and Cables in England and resulted in the Stantec ZEBRA computer. Over forty of these machines were produced, sold and used throughout the world. Hereafter, the construction of computers at PTT was over.

In 1955 the life insurance company Nillmij in The Hague founded Netherlands first computer industry: Electrologica. The first years, this industry existed only in name: the development and production of computers was done by the computer construction group of the Mathematisch Centrum; the commercial side of the company was taken care of by the Nillmij.

Electrologica entered the computer market with the Electrologica X1 computer, a very novel machine in the late 1950s. It was constructed with transistors, a core memory divided in two parts, a small dead part for the standard software and a large life part as storage. Furthermore, it had an interrupt mechanism enabling the X1 to serve more than one I/O device at the same time. The software of the X1 was written by E.W. Dijkstra.

Electrologica was unable to continue the success of the X1. Bad management, international competition (as in IBM) and limited technical capabilities resulted in a late and forced introduction of the successor of the X1, the X8. After the introduction of the IBM System/360 Electrologica tried to counter IBM with their own family of machines (X2, X3, X4, X5) but failed miserably. In 1966 Electrologica was sold to Philips.

Philips started in 1963 with their own computer industry, Philips Computer Industry, and was very ambitious. Philips intended to compete with IBM, but was unable to do so.

The Dutch computer pioneering period was definitely over.