1 The First Computers

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1.2 Early Computers in Scandinavia


On the 10th of February 1947 the Swedish government appointed the Commission of Inquiry on the need of mathematics machines. This lead to the appointment of the Board of Mathematics Machines (Matematikmaskinnämnden) in November 1948. In January 1949 the Board suggested that two mathematics machines be acquired, a rely machine to be built in Sweden and an electron tube machine. In March 1949 the Board was given the task to construct a relay machine. This lead to the first computer in Scandinavia Bark (Binär Automatisk ReläKalkylator), finished in January 1950 and commercially running from July 1950 through July 1955.

Besk (Binär Elektronisk Sekvens-Kalkulator) developed by Erik Stemme and his team at Matematikmaskinnämnden was operational in november 1953 and in full use from the beginning of 1954. Because of advanced I/O equipment and memory administration it was for some time the fastest computer in the world. In the beginning of year 1958 a machine Alwac III E was installed and at the end of 1959 a modernized Besk type machine, Facit EDB.

Based on Besk, 12 computers were built and used by state agencies and by private companies. One of them was Smil (SifferMaskinen I Lund), which was built at Institutionen för numerisk analys (Carl-Erik Fröberg och Kjell Jönsson) based on the blueprints of Besk. It was used by departments at Lunds Universitet with start in 1956 until 1970. (See also http://www.algonet.se/~rittsel/dator/index.htm)


The initiator was Prof. Svein Rosseland fron Oslo University. He had already in 1937 used a Differential Analyzer for solving differential equations. His initiative eventually lead to a working group "Utvalg for matematikmaskiner" in 1950 proposing that a machine be built. The first electronic machine NUSSE (Norsk Universell Siffermaskin, Selvstyrt, Elektronisk) was constructed 1950-1953 under the leadership of Thomas Hysing. Its public presentation in Spring 1954, including NUSSE playing NIM, was enthusiastically received. In 1957 FREDERIK, the first Mercury computer, was installed at Försvarets Forskningsinstitutt, and in 1958 EMMA, an IBM 650, was installed at the Geofysisk institutt in Bergen. The same year Statisik Sentralbyrå installed English Electric's DEUCE MARK II. The first computer for economic-administrative purpose, an IBM RAMARC 305, was installed at Freia in 1960 and for university use a Wegematic 1000 donated to University of Oslo by Wenner-Gren Center in 1960 [Stromme & Skretting www].


DASK (Dansk Automatic Eskvens Kalkulator) was developed based on BESK at Regnecentralen and was operational in 1956. Its follower was the transistor based machine GIER (Geodetisk Instituts Elektroniske Regnemaskine) designed in 1958-61.