In 1952, I discovered an electronic computer on campus called SWAC. It was built and operated by the Numerical Analysis Research Group, a part of the Department of Mathematics with funding from the National Bureau of Standards. SWAC was an acronym for Standard's Western Automatic Computer.
I became fascinated with SWAC and learned to program simple statistical calculations: the arithmetic mean, variance and standard deviation, simple correlation, etc.
In 1953, I introduced electronic computing using SWAC selectively to students in BA 216, Advanced Statistical Inference, one of the new courses added to make Statistics a field of concentration for the MBA degree.
One of the students in the 1953 class ultimately became my only entrepeneur, or at least the only one that I ever knew about. Herbert Karr was a marketing major who took all the new stat courses at the Upper Division level, BA116A and 116B, Statistical Inference in Business, as well as BA 216. (He finished his course work in the Fall, 1953, and received his MBA in January, 1954.) Karr became fascinated with SWAC and became my Research Assistant.
Together we explored more computer applications. To be more specific, we were into handicapping horses.
Karr was a musician who played jazz trumpet. He learned that if you executed the same SWAC instruction over and over again in a loop it produced a sound that could be heard over the loudspeaker attached to the computer. I remember that he wrote a program for the Star Spangled banner which could be run whenever a visiting dignitary came to NAR.
Dr. Michael Melkinoff remembers him writing a program for Chopin's Minuet Waltz. He also remembers that people were always coming to see Herb for tips on the horses, something that I did not know about at the time.
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Now that we had a handicapping function working, we pondered how much money we would need to continue betting until we went broke. So, we decided to simulate the actual operation of the handicapping system to determine this and plot a function of the size of our initial capital against the probability of ruin, This would give us more experience with what was known at that time as the Monte Carlo Method because it was using the computer to generate random numbers to determine whether a race was won (or lost) and the payoff. The result was an unpublished paper written in 1954. I remember that I submitted it somewhere for publication and that it was rejected, for what reasons I don't remember. Neither do I have the rejection letter. It might have been because we were simulating a situation for which there is an analytic solution. More likely, it was because the reviewer did not think that the paper was any good.
Karr went to work at the Rand Corporation in Santa Monica, California, in 1954 and in 1962 founded CACI together with Dr. Harry Markowitz. To my knowledge, Karr is my only entrepeneur.
In 1955, I introduced the School's first full semester computer course using SWAC as the computer,
Because SWAC was the first electronic computer available to faculty and students at GSM as well as many other departments on the UCLA campus, I am including more details about it for those who are interested.
SWAC in Detail
Elements of Coding
Putting the Problem on SWAC
SWAC was a one-user-at-a-time computer. When it came your time on the daily schedule to use the machine, you were in complete control of the computer. It was yours and yours alone. You had to know what OOPB meant. You had to remember to put two blank cards at the end of the SWACARDS deck. The phrase "user friendly" was not part of the computer vocabulary or jargon in the 1950s. The concession to user friendliness made by the SWAC designers was to let the users code in decimal numbers. They could write decimal addresses and operation codes for the instructions to the computer.That was it, but we learned and we lived to code another day.
This concludes the first part of the early period, the years 1952-1955. The second part of this period starts in 1955 with the negotiation between IBM and UCLA to establish, within the Graduate School of Management, a Western Data Processing Center dedicated to research and education in computer data processing.
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