• May 10, 1914
    (b.) -
    Jan 24, 2004
    (d.)

Bio/Description

A pioneer in many ways, he was foremost an organizer and a tireless promoter of computing, who gave of his time and talents so that others could learn about this new and fascinating tool, the digital computer. Hailed as a one of a kind: a fine administrator, a superb technical mind, a great teacher, and a warm and supportive colleague, he pioneered the use of computers during his early career, provided leadership to numerous early professional and industry organizations, and became one of the most revered elder statesmen of the computing industry he helped create. His unique legacy lives on every time computer people get together to exchange papers or listen to guest speakers. Born in Chicago, Illinois, to Karl and Kaethe Hammer, who had emigrated from Germany in 1912, at the end of World War I, his parents separated and his mother took him back to her hometown of Starnberg; a small community about 20 kilometers south of Munich (Bavaria). After four years of elementary school in Starnberg, he entered the Realschule at Landsberg am Lech where he lived in a dormitory. Although English was the prescribed language, he learned to read, write, and speak both English and German. His favorite subject was analytic geometry where he learned the meaning of the complex plane. Because he had made good grades during his five years in Landsberg, his family decided to enroll him in the Luitpold Oberrealschule—a prestigious institution in Munich. Luitpold had a number of student clubs, and it was in one of these that he was first exposed to cryptology—a field that fascinated him all his life. In spring 1933, he graduated with advanced standing from Luitpold and was accepted at the University of Munich to study Applied Mathematics. He studied under some legendary professors, including Oskar Perrons and Heinrich Tietze. Werner Heisenberg was a guest lecturer. Because he had advanced standing, he graduated in two years. Though many in his circle foresaw the threat of war, he correctly believed he would have time to complete his studies. Thus, he entered the Ph.D. program for Mathematical Statistics and Probability Theory with minor concentrations in Engineering and Astronomy. He finished his studies and returned to the US in late August 1938. His first job was at the Beacon Laboratories of Texaco Corporation in New York assisting with analyzing experimental results, developing organized plans for experimental analysis, the standardization of experiments, etc. One of his first assignments was to calculate a new set of viscosity tables. For this job, he purchased a Frieden desk calculator with 10-10-20 digit capacity and a square root enhancement. In spring 1942, he was asked to teach a bilingual crash course in scientific German and English for the professional staff at the US Military Academy. With the approval of his managers at Texaco, he began his teaching career, working at Beacon in the mornings and traveling to West Point for a 4-hour afternoon class each day for six weeks. In 1944, he moved to New York City where he had accepted a position as a statistical clerk with Pillsbury Mills. Based on his statistical background, and some research papers published by the Rand Corporation, he used linear programming techniques to improve the management of the shipping process. To supplement his income, he was also a part-time instructor at the Pratt Institute. He left Pillsbury to become Chairman of Technical Education at Walter Hervey Junior College, a branch of the YMCA Schools of New York. In this position, he supervised the technical curriculum: from math and physics to electronics, as well as visiting potential (student) employers and evaluating student progress. He also began teaching part-time at Hunter College. Immediately after the war, Walter Hervey had a flood of students—most were former service members studying under the GI Bill. In 1951, because of a slowdown in student enrollment the YMCA put the faculty on a part-time basis and stopped accepting students. He arranged to have his Walter Hervey classes in the mornings and accepted a job at Columbia University's Bureau of Applied Social Research. The Bureau's Director was Professor Paul Lazarsfeld, whom he had met a few years earlier. He worked on statistical forecasts of population growth and the industrial infrastructure. In this effort, he became a believer and user of Wassily Leontief's input/output analysis model and adapted it to the bureau's projects. Working three jobs to make ends meet, however, wasn't a viable long-term strategy, so he found a consulting job at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. One of his first projects was desk-checking scientific subroutines for Engineering Research Associates (ERA). Another project gave him the opportunity to work with Grace Murray Hopper, who headed one of two major software departments at Remington-Rand Univac. He worked on a project to improve the Norden bomb sight—an analog computer—and worked on scientific subroutines for the ERA 1101 and 1103 computers. He also helped I. Edward Block, Donald Haughton, and Donald Hay in founding the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, and served as its Treasurer in 1955. Remington Rand opened a UNIVAC I Computer Center in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, and hired him as its first Director. In August 1956, he and his wife moved to Kronberg, a suburb of Frankfurt. His staff consisted of Heinrich Poesch, Engineering Manager; Karl-Heinz Buchner, Software Manager; and Gerhard Overhoff, Marketing Manager. The disassembled UNIVAC I central processing unit (CPU), along with 10 tape units, the power supply, a small printer, and an assortment of Unitypers, Uniprinters, spare parts, and engineering supplies arrived via Seaboard and Western Airlines. The installation of the UNIVAC I—in space provided by the Battelle Institute—was completed on October 18, 1956, with a dedication the following day. Early applications were written in assembly language or in the A-2 compiler language. His ability to speak German and English provided him with numerous opportunities to introduce computers to organizations throughout Europe, including the UK, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, and the Scandinavian countries: During this time he gave a large number of seminars spending at least a third of his time away from the Center. By the end of April 1957, the UNIVAC European Computer Center was running smoothly, and its operations were turned over to a German team. He then returned to the US and took a job with Sylvania Electronic Products in Needham, Massachusetts. Sylvania used a UNIVAC I in support of its defense business, and had a contract to design, develop, and deliver a state-of-the-art mobile computer for the US Army Signal Corps to support the distribution of intelligence around the battlefield—known as the Fieldata project. This project used a computer housed in a large trailer, known as MOBIDIC (Mobile Digital Computer). He created scientific models for MOBIDIC intelligence applications and worked on other Sylvania projects such as the Universal Digital Operational Flight Trainer and the KX3, an encryption device used by government agencies. Because he preferred the world of high-tech government contracts, he accepted a position with RCA at the end of 1959. While waiting for a security clearance, he researched digital and analog networks, and with Halina Montvila prepared an extensive annotated bibliography in the form of a 100-page monograph, which was widely distributed throughout RCA. As a senior engineering scientist at RCA, he worked on the design of a digital command-and-control network for the Minuteman missile under a subcontract from Boeing Aircraft. It was at this time that RCA decided to enter the digital computer market. He worked on software projects for the RCA 301 and published a number of internal monographs on special applications. Although there was much to like in the collegial atmosphere of RCA, he realized that RCA would not succeed in the computer field, and began looking for another job. After meeting with Univac Washington Vice President Leland E. (Lee) Johnson, he agreed to join Sperry Univac Federal Government Marketing in Washington, D.C., on January 2, 1963, as Director of Computer Sciences. Along with his other activities, such as participating in the conceptual design committee for a new computer (UNIVAC 1108), he developed, and distributed widely, a monthly report that summarized important developments within Univac, along with a list of high-level marketing contacts. In addition, he kept a daily diary of his activities. To prepare for the marketing of the UNIVAC 1108, members of the Marketing Division fanned out across the US to talk to existing and potential customers. One of the first prospects for the new machine was United Airlines (UAL), which wanted to develop an airline reservation system to compete with the Sabre System that IBM had developed for American Airlines. He made the presentation to UAL management for a punched-card-based system Lee Johnson had designed for Capitol Airlines. Capitol had been bought by UAL, thus giving Johnson an entrance to UAL management. On December 15, 1965 Univac received notice that it had won the UAL contract for $39 million. Unfortunately, this project encountered severe difficulties and it was cancelled. In the early 1950s he had joined Toastmasters at the invitation of Ed Thelen, a research chemist: Public speaking had become an ever more important part of his professional life. From 1963 onward, he used his experience and speaking skills to promote Univac selecting those venues which offered the greatest ROI (return on investment) of his time and Univac's funds. He spoke to the Univac Japanese Users Association in May 1972. In his "A Forecast of Computation," 1,000 people heard his thoughts about future hardware, software, and "brain-ware." Following the conference, he made a lecture tour of major Japanese cities sponsored by Nippon Univac Kaisha, the Japanese Univac Users Association. In the 1970’s, Sperry Univac maintained an international executive center in Rome, Italy. Villa "Les Aigles" was used as a meeting place for senior European managers from government, industry, and academia. An annual highlight was the Point of View (POV) meeting. In 1973, he made a presentation on "The Electronic Computer and Its Role in the Modern World" following the opening presentation by Senator Eugene McCarthy discussing "A Statesman's Estimate of the World of the 70s and the Decisions Facing the World". After the afternoon speakers finished, the day ended with a Fireside Chat called "An Informal After-Dinner Talk by the Co-Inventor of the First Electronic Digital Computer" by John W. Mauchly. Within Univac, he had become a goodwill ambassador, traveling to Univac offices around the globe, to lecture and provide technical advice. He also lectured at the US State Department, the FBI Academy, the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, to audiences at more than a dozen federal agencies, and to other private and public organizations. Indeed, he reflected that during his heyday, he gave an average of two lectures a week, or more than 100 per year. Although he had many technical successes (and firsts) during his long career, it is perhaps his contributions to professional organizations for which he is best remembered. As computer hardware and software evolved, so did the need for professionals to meet and exchange experiences. Soon after coming to Washington, D.C., to work for Sperry Univac, he joined the local chapter of the ACM and served as chair from 1966 to 1969, when he was voted as regional representative. He chaired the ACM Accreditation Committee from 1968 to 1970, the ACM Nominating Committee from 1971 to 1973, served as the ACM delegate to the American Association for the Advancement of Science from 1969 to 1973, and was an ACM National Lecturer in 1969 and 1970. During this period, he was also was a member of the American Society of Cybernetics, serving as Vice President in 1968 and President in 1969. As he made his marketing rounds for Sperry Univac, he met many members of the Data Processing Management Association. Most large cities had DPMA chapters, and members met on a monthly basis for fellowship, dinner, and technical education. In addition to seminars on technical subjects, most dinner meetings featured a lecture followed by a question and answer period. Given his stature in the industry and his wonderful lecture style, he was soon a fixture on the DPMA local, regional, and national meeting circuits. His professional life was being consumed by extra Univac activities although he was aware of the obvious benefit of his exposure and stature to his employer. He had also become active in the American Federation of Information Processing Societies (AFIPS). He chaired a panel on international developments at the Spring Joint Computer Conference (SJCC) in Washington, D.C., in March 1971. He served as a Director of AFIPS from 1973 to 1975 and as one of two program chairmen of the National Computer Conference (NCC) in 1973, where he was also responsible for the technical program. His next major assignment was the Second National Computer Conference, sponsored by AFIPS, in 1974. Although this was a major undertaking, he also served as Chairman of the annual joint meeting of the two leading Canadian societies: Canadian Information Processing Society and the Canadian ACM on May 23–24, 1974. He was also asked by Harvey Garner, director of the Moore School, to serve as Chairman of NCC '76. Because of his stature and his experience with Sperry Univac, he also served as Chairman of Pioneer Day at NCC '81, where the UNIVAC I was honored. He served as Chairman of the Distinguished Service Award Committee and as Chairman of the History of Computing Committee from 1982 to 1984. In recognition of his efforts, he was presented with the AFIPS Distinguished Service Award at NCC '85. He was also instrumental in creating The First International Conference on Computer Communication in Washington, D.C., on October 24–26, 1972. The conference was sponsored by most of the existing computer societies. He served as Vice Chairman of the program committee, and was Program Coordinator for three sessions. In addition, he delivered a paper titled "Computer Communications: The Future," in which he made the following observations: “This developing relationship between computer and communications technology is possibly the most important event of our times…During the 1970's telecommunications revenue from machines conversing with machines will surpass that of people talking to people…By the end of this decade, electronic systems and especially communications will affect practically every aspect of human behavior…” For the Second International Conference on Computer Communication (ICCC '74, in Stockholm), he served as Deputy Secretary General of the conference. He was Fellow of the IEEE, Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), American Association for the Advancement of Science, New York Academy of Science, and the World Organization of General Systems and Cybernetics. He received distinguished service awards from ACM and the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, the Chester Morrill Memorial Award from Association for Systems Management, and was named the 1973 Man of the Year by the Data Processing Management Association (DPMA). He donated his writings and materials (more than 200 pages of notes from the early 1990s) to the Charles Babbage Institute. The following are among his publications: "The Challenge of Implementing a Large-Scale Consumer Information System," Proc. Computers and Soc. (ACM SIGCAS), vol. 3, no. 3, 1972, pp. 5–7; "Computer Communications: The Future," Proc. 1st Int'l Conf. Computer Communication, S. Winkler, ed., ICCC-72 Secretariat, 1972, pp. 31–35. Note: sponsored by the ACM, IEEE Computer Society, and the IEEE Communications Society with the cooperation of 13 other organizations; "Computer Power to the People May Mean Major Societal Changes," Data Management, vol. 14, no. 7, 1976, p. 22; "A Forecast of the Future of Computation," Information & Management, vol. 1, no. 1, 1977, pp. 3–10; and "Beyond the Data Processing Horizon," Proc. ACM Ann. Conf., ACM Press, 1984, pp. 281–286.
  • Date of Birth:

    May 10, 1914
  • Date of Death:

    Jan 24, 2004
  • Noted For:

    Pioneer for the use of computers, providing leadership to numerous early professional and industry organizations
  • Category of Achievement:

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