Monday, November 13, 2006

William Burroughs

Burroughs was born in 1914, the younger of two sons of a prominent family in St. Louis, Missouri. His grandfather, William Seward Burroughs I, founded the Burroughs Adding Machine company, which evolved into the Burroughs Corporation.

The Burroughs Corporation began in 1886 as the American Arithmometer Company in St. Louis, Missouri selling an adding machine invented by William Seward Burroughs.
The company moved to Detroit in 1904 and changed its name to the Burroughs Adding Machine Company, in honor of Burroughs, who died in 1898. Burroughs grew into the biggest adding machine company in America, although by the 1950s it was selling more than the basic adding machines, including typewriters and computers.

In 1953 the Burroughs Adding Machine Company was renamed the Burroughs Corporation and began moving into computer products, initially for banking institutions. This move began with the purchase in June, 1956, of The ElectroData Corporation in Pasadena, California. It had originally been a division Consolidated Electrodynamics Corporation, and spun off. ElectroData had built the Datatron 205 and was working on the Datatron 220. The first major computer product that came from this marriage was the B205 Tube computer.

Burroughs was one of the eight major United States computer companies (with IBM, the largest, Honeywell, NCR Corporation, Control Data Corporation, General Electric, RCA and UNIVAC) through most of the 1960s. IBM's share of the market at the time was so much larger than all of the others, that this group was often sarcastically referred to as "IBM and the Seven Dwarfs."
Later, this group became known as the BUNCH - (Burroughs, UNIVAC, NCR Corporation, Control Data Corporation, and Honeywell)
In September 1986, Burroughs Corporation merged with Sperry Corporation to form Unisys Corporation.

Burroughs graduated from Harvard University in 1936. According to Ted Morgan's Literary Outlaw, "His parents, upon his graduation, had decided to give him a monthly allowance out of their earnings from Cobblestone Gardens, a tidy sum in those days. It was enough to keep him going, and indeed it guaranteed his survival for the next twenty-five years, arriving with welcome regularity. The allowance was a ticket to freedom; it allowed him to live where he wanted to and to forgo employment." However, Burroughs's parents never had a great fortune; they had sold the rights to his grandfather's invention and had no share in the Burroughs Corporation. Nevertheless, Burroughs lived a privileged life with little direction or need for a career; in fact, he noted in the Prologue to Junkie (novel) that until he became addicted to morphine, he did not worry about supporting himself.

Info about Burroughs Corporation at the wikipedia as well as William Burroughs biography.


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