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Bull: A World-Wide Company Born in Europe

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The patents of Fredrik-Rosing Bull, registered from 1919, were the origins of statistic punched card machines, initially manufactured in Norway, then in Switzerland, and finally in France after the creation of the company there in 1931. From 1935 onwards, the firmly established Compagnie des Machines Bull began to expand internationally until about 1960 when Bull had reached the point of being the second largest electronic business machine manufacturer in the world. Bull's conversion to electronics during the 1950s brought the company new successes (Gamma 3 in 1952, drum-augmented Gamma in 1956) but destabilized the company, since its financial position and management methods were rather unsuited to the new "technical system." Poor commercial distribution of the Gamma 60 (1960) was, in spite of its technical performance, only one of the reasons for the crisis that culminated in General Electric's acquiring a controlling interest in 1964, sold then to Honeywell in 1970. By the end of the 1980s, Bull, once again a company with a French shareholding majority, is now the leading European computer manufacturer and is ranked seventh worldwide.

Published in:

Annals of the History of Computing  (Volume:11 ,  Issue: 4 )