Post-War Developments: 1946-1956

The Boeing Airplane Co. ... Massive Computers

The first time Boeing relied on a computer to help design and build a product was in 1946 for the Ground-to-Air-Pilotless Aircraft (GAPA) missiles. The company's massive analog computer system was called BEMAC (Boeing Electro-Mechanical Computer). According to the Boeing News of the time, it looked like an "up-ended telephone switchboard" or a "metal highboy" with 31 drawers filled with vacuum tubes. It was 7 feet tall, 2 feet wide and 1.5 feet deep.

Volt meters were set in the upper third. BEMAC filled an 11-by-24-foot, dust-free, temperature-controlled room, from which the heat generated by the machine's 3,000 vacuum (radio) tubes was evenly drained. It communicated data using graph recorders and a series of dots on oscilloscope screens.

BEMAC and other specifically designed analog computers also were integral to the 1949 development of the Bomarc missile. Engineers from Boeing (Bo) and the University of Michigan Aeronautical Research Center (marc) designed the supersonic, nuclear-armed, pilotless aircraft with a 400- to- 800-mile range as a defense against invading aircraft or missiles. Bomarc, housed in individual launcher-shelters, first flew Sept. 10, 1952. Boeing built 700 IM-99A/B Bomarcs between 1957 and 1964, as well as 420 launch systems for the missiles.

In 1951 Boeing sold simpler versions of BEMAC to Bell Aircraft, Lear, the Lockheed Aircraft Co. and the applied physics laboratory at Johns Hopkins, as well as to North American, which would soon be building its own computers. Meanwhile, Boeing continued to use electronic technologies for product design and simulation.

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