ITD a leader in computer technology
Philo T. Farnsworth. Even if the name is not familiar, the average American family owes a large part of their daily entertainment to him. His invention, the television, is center stage every evening in most homes. Computers are central to life and work now, too. Life without them is difficult to imagine. Though not quite on a par with Farnsworth, ITD also was a pioneer of sorts.
ITD, or more correctly the Idaho Department of Highways, was the first organization in the Boise area to be computerized, according to the Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP). A plaque affixed to the old Statesman building at the southwest corner of Sixth and Main Street attests to that fact. The building was built for the Statesman in 1909, and the Idaho Division of Highways took up residence there in the late ‘50s.
The plaque, placed there last summer by the AITP, commemorates the Idaho Department of Highways as the first organization in Boise with a computer – a UNIVAC 120 from 1957.
The UNIVAC 120, a mainframe computer, was a 1953 release of the modified Remington Rand 409 Computer. The UNIVAC 120 boasted of performing 360,000 addition and subtraction calculations per hour. By contrast, today’s IBM-built Mira, used by the Department of Energy, can do 10 quadrillion calculations – per second.
ITD was nearly the first in the state to use computers, but that honor actually goes to Idaho National Laboratory, which was using computers from the Navy for nuclear research in the early 1950s.
Evolution of the “First 10” list
Maxson was heavily involved in the initial efforts to put together the “First 10” list, a research effort that started in 1990 and is ongoing.
“The plaque was an outgrowth of the ‘First 10’ research,” Maxson said. “We decided to start that activity about 18 months ago, coinciding with the AITP Idaho chapter's 50th anniversary.”