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The Burroughs Atlas Guidance Computer (July 19, 1958)


On July 19, 1958 the BurroughsAtlas Guidance” computer was used at Cape Canaveral to control the launch of the Atlas missile. It was one of the first computers to use transistors rather than vacuum tubes.

". . .the first machine was installed at the Cape Canaveral missile range in June 1957. Although Atlas missile launches started in September 1957, test patterns were transmitted to the missile in place of actual guidance commands for the first four flights. The first computer-controlled launch was on July 19, 1958. The computer had separate memory areas for instructions (2048 18-bit words) and data (256 24-bit words). The instruction area was increased to 2816 words, beginning with the Model III version, which was first delivered in December 1958. The Atlas guidance computer had no facilities for developing programs, so they were written on the UDEC II, the Datatron, and the 220, using simulator software. Burroughs was still doing Atlas programming on the 220 in 1964. In all, 18 Atlas guidance computers were built at a total project cost of $37 million. The computer was very reliable, and no Atlas launch was ever aborted due to computer failure."