Core Memories

The Big Picture


One of the great achievements of the UNIVAC 1, the world’s first commercial computer, was its mercury delay-line memory, shown here. As J. Presper Eckert, co-­inventor of the UNIVAC, and four other members of the Institute of Radio Engineers wrote in 1949: ”In a delay-line memory, ­information is stored in the form of groups of electrical or acoustical impulses or signals ­circulating in an electric delay line or medium suitable for transmission of acoustic waves.”

The authors noted, ”Although considerable research is being done on electrostatic ­memories…the delay-line type of memory is more highly developed at the present time.” Of course, today essentially all memory is electrostatic.

The UNIVAC is just one of dozens of ­computers and ­computing devices lovingly brought back to life in the pages of Core Memory: A Visual Survey of Vintage Computers , a stunning coffee-table tome by Mark Richards ­(photographs) and John Alderman (text), recently published by Chronicle Books, San Francisco. For more photos from the book, see