FUN FRIDAY: Univac control console

As cool as today’s computers are... there is part of me that really loves items like this old control console. It was designed for one of the first commercially available computers, the UNIVAC I. The UNIVAC was first made in 1951 and cost over $1.25 MILLION at a time when you could get a new Chevy for $500. And folks, this wasn’t the whole computer. This was just the control console. If you wanted a UNIVAC, you needed to part with a couple thousand square feet of climate-controlled space.

Yes, it’s true that a programmable calculator costing $50 can outdo a UNIVAC. But come on, you know you want to sit down behind this bad boy and flip its switches. Flipping switches was the only way to interact with this big behemoth… no swiping or tapping, not even a programming language. It was all manual.

You can just imagine sitting there like the king of technology keying in super-important codes and waiting for the machine to make chunka-chunka noises until spitting out the results on a little roll of paper. Now that’s computing.

If you want a closer view of the UNIVAC’s control console, check out its page at the Computer History Museum. Be sure to zoom all the way in.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.