It was the first computer – ever – and it was turned on in March of 1951 for the U.S. Census Bureau. The UNIVAC, or Universal Automatic Computer, was big: an entire room, filled with more than 5,000 vacuum tubes and consuming 150 kW of power. It operated at a mere 2000 instructions per second. (By comparison, the average laptop today routinely handles about 100,000 million instructions every second.)
The UNIVAC had Big Bertha printers, too, that could print 600 lines of type every minute on form-fed paper, and weighed in at 800 pounds. Thanks to the folks at Royal Pingdom, who have put together this infographic.
The UNIVAC’s big claim to fame: It was the first computer used to predict a U.S. election: UNIVAC said at 8:30 p.m. EST that Eisenhower would win 43 states and 438 electoral votes: he actually won 39 states and 442 votes. Wired had the story several years ago here. CBS news, who had hired the programmers, never aired the prediction, however.