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Here is a photo of a Univac I with four individuals. According to Artifact Details at the Computer History Museum's web page with an extremely similar photo (perhaps a shot a few moments earlier/later):

Date: 1957

Description: Image shows operator's console of Univac I computer and four programmers. From left to right, Donald Cropper, K. C. Krishnan, Grace Hopper, and Norman Rothberg.

Lot Number: X7424.2015

The image can also be found at

Is it possible to know where this photo was taken? There couldn't have been very many Univac I computers that Grace Hopper would have been photographed with, and that distinctive-looking sunburst logo (watermark?) in the upper-left corner may be a clue as well. That's a non-starter.


enter image description here

Source

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    In this case I've used the identify-this-computer tag to identify this particular unit and its location, rather than just the make/model. – uhoh Feb 1 at 6:31
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    I'll bet it's more accurate to say that the Commodore 64 resembles the Univac, considering the timeline of the creation of each. – fred_dot_u Feb 1 at 10:12
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    I'm not sure who's voting to close this as off-topic, but it seems on-topic to me. Care to explain your vote? – wizzwizz4 Feb 1 at 11:08
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    The watermark is the logo of the Smithsonian Institution, a group of museums and research facilities administered by the U.S. government and is not part of the original photo. – Blrfl Feb 1 at 11:57
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    A question about Rear-Admiral Hopper and a computer is surely in the realm of retrocomputing. – another-dave Feb 2 at 15:49
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Before I give my guess, let's see what we have so far: Apart from the picture links in the question, we also have this link Grace Hopper demonstrating COBOL at Programming Department (Thank you @uoho). Most links places the picture as circa 1960 or 1957 and several also mentions COBOL. From the WW2DB link in the question, we can see that in this time frame Grace Hopper was working for Univac. The link above even places the picture at "Programming Department", the picture originated from Sperry Rand (Corporation), Univac Division and dates it as 1957-06, ie June 1957.

The date is still a small problem. Even if I believe Hagley Digital Archives more than Wikipedia (Museum Curators normally don't give exact date without good backup evidence) it was impossible to have a COBOL class at that date, since COBOL was designed 1959 Wikipedia. So, either is the date wrong, or the COBOL reference a bit wrong. (It could have been during the work that led up to COBOL).

All of the people in the picture are also in some other pictures from Hagley Digital Archives (you might need to search around a bit). This makes me think that all 4 people were at the time part of Grace Hoppers team at Sperry Univac.

So, my best guess (until any more proof gets up) is that it was taken at Sperry Univac, at their "school room". Time somewhere between 1957 and 1960.

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Could be "anywhere". But my guess would be a US government facility, more likely DOD, and most likely of all Navy. In addition to Admiral Grace Hopper, Donald Cropper according to this obituary if I have the right one, was in the Navy and then Marines. So my first guess would be the 1953 installation at David W. Taylor Model Basin as listed in the the Wikipedia Univac I article and sourced from this newsletter

But really that is just a guess. The Army and Air Force had systems as well, and Grace Hopper & Donald Cropper might have been sent over to those systems to help get things running.

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    Unfortunately, in 1957, Grace Hopper seems to have been working at Sperry, as their "director of automatic programming" which meant compilers, for UNIVAC machines. So she might well have visited any site with a UNIVAC I. – John Dallman Feb 2 at 14:24
  • @JohnDallman I'd be happy to be proven wrong by someone with more definite information. As I said, "just a guess". But perhaps enough to point someone else in the right direction. – manassehkatz-Reinstate Monica Feb 3 at 0:27
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    Maybe the Pentagon, which is where the May 28-29, 1959 CODASYL meeting was held. – snips-n-snails Apr 23 at 23:30
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"So when seeking employment I applied to [Grace Hopper's] Automatic Programming Department at Remington-Rand Univac and was employed started in June 1959.

"The day of reckoning was in December 1960 when the CODASYL dignitaries showed up one day at RCA in Camden and the next day in Univac in Philadelphia.

"During the spring of 1961 [we] moved from the primitive facilities at 19th and Allegheny Avenue (an old dusty and dirty Exide battery warehouse) to a new luxurious building in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania.

Source: Harold "Bud" Lawson (inventor of the pointer variable). "Experiences and Reflections." (The photo in the .pdf file is also located here and here.)

So my guess (just a guess) is that the photo was taken at 19th Street and Allegheny Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (One remaining building of the Exide complex still stands, but the Remington-Rand Univac buildings south of Allegheny and north of the tracks appear to have all been demolished.)

I think everyone in the photo has passed away by now: Donald Cropper (b. 1939?) in 2011, Kalpathi C. Krishnan (b. 1924) in 2002, Grace Hopper (b. 1906) in 1992, and Norman Rothberg (b. 1935?) in 2003.

A few years ago, the Smithsonian posted on Facebook asking for the identities of the people in the photo. They might be a lead for information about the photo's location, in addition to Professor Lawson if anyone knows how to contact him.

  • Thank you for writing such a helpful and informed answer! – uhoh Apr 24 at 22:37

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