Science Photo Library says that this photograph of Claude Shannon was taken in Bell Laboratories in 1954. What is the name of the computer behind him?


1 Answer 1


It's likely part of the Bell Model VI relay computer, installed at Bell Labs in 1949. This was a revision of the massive Model V designed and built by Bell, which were installed at NACA (1946) and BRL (1947).

The test panel next to Shannon is very similar to this Model V control panel (missing its fascia). This is not much of a help to identification, however, as Bell reused standard telephone racks, cabinets, switches and relays as much as possible.

The glimpse of the other panel through the glass door, showing "Control …", "Digits …" and "Register" above a large relay rack is more distinctive. The device may not have been a computer as we know it: the Model VI was not a stored program device, though it did have some features that came very close.

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    Early Digital Computers at Bell Telephone Laboratories PDF page 6. Note the shelves and 'desktop' matching the picture with Claude Shannon. (It's a picture of the Model VI.)
    – user9041
    Dec 26, 2020 at 10:45
  • Good eye! But the fascia strip above the panel on the Shannon picture is black, while the one in the early digital computers paper is white. It's also missing the two round meters at the top left. These are Bell standard control panels (like the Model V I linked to) so will look very similar.
    – scruss
    Dec 26, 2020 at 10:59
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  • You'd swear those were transistor modules in the registers visible through the door window behind Shannon. I couldn't identify them to a particular TRADIC.
    – user9041
    Dec 26, 2020 at 11:13
  • Didn't Shannon leave Bell Labs for MIT in 1956? Dec 26, 2020 at 12:00

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