Largest Computer Ever Built: “On Guard – The Story of SAGE” 1956 IBM

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Largest Computer Ever Built: "On Guard - The Story of SAGE" 1956 IBM

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The Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) was a system of large computers… that coordinated data from many radar sites and processed it to produce a single unified image… SAGE directed and controlled the NORAD response to a Soviet air attack…

Originally a public domain film, slightly cropped to remove uneven edges, with the aspect ratio corrected, and one-pass brightness-contrast-color correction & mild video noise reduction applied.
The soundtrack was also processed with volume normalization, noise reduction, clipping reduction, and/or equalization (the resulting sound, though not perfect, is far less noisy than the original).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semi-Automatic_Ground_Environment
Wikipedia license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

The Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) was a system of large computers and associated networking equipment that coordinated data from many radar sites and processed it to produce a single unified image of the airspace over a wide area. SAGE directed and controlled the NORAD response to a Soviet air attack, operating in this role from the late 1950s into the 1980s…

The processing power behind SAGE was supplied by the largest computer ever built, the AN/FSQ-7. Each SAGE Direction Center (DC) housed an FSQ-7 which occupied an entire floor, approximately 22,000 square feet (2,000 m2) not including supporting equipment. Information was fed to the DCs from a network of radar stations as well as readiness information from various defence sites. The computers, based on the raw radar data, developed “tracks” for the reported targets, and automatically calculated which defences were within range. Operators used light guns to select targets on-screen for further information, select one of the available defences, and issue commands to attack. These commands would then be automatically sent to the defence site via teleprinter.

Connecting the various sites was an enormous network of telephones, modems and teleprinters. Later additions to the system allowed SAGE’s tracking data to be sent directly to CIM-10 Bomarc missiles and some of the US Air Force’s interceptor aircraft in-flight, directly updating their autopilots to maintain an intercept course without operator intervention. Each DC also forwarded data to a Combat Center (CC) for “supervision of the several sectors within the division” (“each combat center [had] the capability to coordinate defense for the whole nation”).

SAGE became operational in the late 1950s and early 1960s at a combined cost of billions of dollars. It was noted that the deployment cost more than the Manhattan Project, which it was, in a way, defending against. Throughout its development, there were continual concerns about its real ability to deal with large attacks, and the Operation Skyshield tests showed that only about one-fourth of enemy bombers would have been intercepted. Nevertheless, SAGE was the backbone of NORAD’s air defense system into the 1980s, by which time the tube-based FSQ-7’s were increasingly costly to maintain and completely outdated. Today the same command and control task is carried out by microcomputers, based on the same basic underlying data…

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AN/FSQ-7_Combat_Direction_Central

The AN/FSQ-7 Combat Direction Central, referred to as the Q7 for short, was a computerized command and control system for Cold War ground-controlled interception used in the USAF Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) air defense network. The largest discrete computer system ever built, each of the 24 installed machines weighed 250 tons. The AN/FSQ-7 used a total of 60,000 vacuum tubes (49,000 in the computers) and up to 3 megawatts of electricity, performing about 75,000 instructions per second for networking regional radars.

The installations were configured as duplex systems, using a pair of AN/FSQ-7 computers to provide fault tolerance. One was active at any time, the other on standby. The standby system copied data from the active system to minimize switchover time if needed. A scheduled switchover took place every day.

The AN/FSQ-7 calculated one or more predicted interception points for assigning manned aircraft or CIM-10 Bomarc missiles to intercept an intruder using the Automatic Target and Battery Evaluation (ATABE) algorithm. Also used in the Nike AN/FSG-1 system, ATABE automated the Whiz Wheel (Felsenthal CPU-73 A/P Air Navigation Attack Computer) method used in manual command post operations.

The Q7 fire button launched the Bomarc, and an additional Q7 algorithm automatically directed the missile during climb and cruise to the beginning of its supersonic dive…

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