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The rise and fall of the General Electric Corporation computer department

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1 Author(s)
Lee, J.A.N. ; Dept. of Comput. Sci., Virginia Polytech. Inst. & State Univ., Blacksburg, VA, USA

The computer department of the General Electric Corporation began with the winning of a single contract to provide a special purpose computer system to the Bank of America, and expanded to the development of a line of upward compatible machines in advance of the IBM System/360 and whose descendants still exist in 1995, to a highly successful time-sharing service, and to a process control business. Over the objections of the executive officers of the Company the computer department strived to become the number two in the industry but after fifteen years, to the surprise of many in the industry, GE sold the operation and got out of the competition to concentrate on other products that had a faster turn around on investment and a well established first or second place in their industry. This paper looks at the history of the GE computer department and attempts to draw some conclusions regarding the reasons why this fifteen year venture was not more successful, while recognizing that there were successful aspects of the operation that could have balanced the books and provided necessary capital for a continued business

Published in:

Annals of the History of Computing, IEEE  (Volume:17 ,  Issue: 4 )