Oral history interview with Robert E. Mumma

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Oral history interview with Robert E. Mumma

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Charles Babbage Institute


Oral History


Mumma describes National Cash Register's (now NCR) early years in the electronic computing industry. Mumma went to work for NCR in 1939 in their newly formed Electronic Research Department. Before the war he designed gas thyratron tubes for use as decimal counters in an electronic calculator, a working model of which was completed before the war. Mumma discusses the contact NCR had during this period with MIT and Harvard, and reviews some of the early research projects and personnel at NCR. He describes in guarded terms work NCR did before the war for NDRC on a secret communication system and during the war on a high speed counter for measuring muzzle velocity of cannon shells. He recounts how war-time work on cryptanalytic equipment took all the company's effort, and how this shaped company policy resisting government contract work after the war. The second half of the interview describes NCR's move into commercial electronic computing in the 1940s, 1950s, and early 1960s, with such products as cash registers with punched tape, accounting machines with electronic multiplier, high-speed printers, bar code readers, point-of-sale terminals, and magnetic ink character recognition equipment. Mumma explains how NCR considered purchasing the Eckert-Mauchly Company prior to its acquisition of Computer Research Corporation, as a way of entering the computer field. The division of labor between NCR-Dayton and the NCR-CRC division are considered, as are the difficulties of promoting, developing, and marketing electronic technology in the mechanically-oriented environment of NCR headquarters in Dayton.


Transcript, 42 pp. Audio file available at http://purl.umn.edu/95250

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Robert E. Mumma, OH 73. Oral history interview by William Aspray, 19 April 1984, Dayton, Ohio. Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. http://purl.umn.edu/107540

Suggested citation

Mumma, Robert E.. (1984). Oral history interview with Robert E. Mumma. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy, https://hdl.handle.net/11299/107540.

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