The following are excerpts from a 1954 IBM booklet describing NORC
The Naval Ordnance Research Calculator (NORC) was designed and built by International Business Machines Corporation for the U.S. Navy. It was designed especially for the solution of the largest computational problems of science and technology. It is the fastest and most powerful electronic calculator in operation. With its unsurpassed speed and reliability, NORC handles single problems involving billions of multiplications, divisions, additions and subtractions. Unusually simple, straightforward instructions assist the scientist in presenting the most intricate problems to the machine.
Unique electronic circuits perform arithmetic and other logical operations and control all parts of the machine. An example of its simplified construction is the fact that over half the circuitry of NORC is made up of only six types of pluggable units.
NORC does arithmetic in the same manner as a human. It says "9 and 6 are 5 and 1 to carry" — but does it in a millionth of a second. . . .
Complete arithmetic operations include referring to the instructions, selecting the factors and "remembering" the result — each operation following the other at a rate of 15,000 a second or a billion in less than a 24 hour day. This is equivalent to one thousand people computing for a lifetime.
Operating instructions and problem data are read into NORC from eight ultra high-speed magnetic tape units. Seventy thousand characters a second are read from or recorded on a single tape. It would take 14,000 typists to write this data in the same amount of time. The tape starts and attains full speed in 8 thousandths of a second. In addition to their use for input and output, tapes also store intermediate results during the calculation.
Printed records are produced at the rate of 18,000 characters a minute -- equivalent to the output of 70 typists.
In NORC, calculation proceeds during printing, characters being delivered to the printers at the rate of 10,000 a second. This high-speed printing during calculation permits the scientist to modify his planning as the problem progresses.
In normal operation, the calculator proceeds automatically according to written instructions, without attention from the operator. Indicator lights on the console show the progress of the problem and the operations being performed. Controls permit the operator to start and stop the machine and to modify the written program. Any number or instruction in the calculator can be shown on the faces of cathode ray tubes at the discretion of the operator. Also, any selected portion of the program can be examined in slow motion through this display.
The Card-tape-card Machine automatically transcribes input data for NORC from punched cards onto magnetic tapes. And conversely, final results from calculations on NORC are transcribed from magnetic tape into punched cards on this same machine.
Punched cards facilitate many operations such as recording, verifying, editing, collating, sorting and printing.
Electronic circuits for the calculator are mounted on pluggable units which may be removed from the calculator for test and repair.
A unique piece of auxiliary equipment, the Test Assembly permits dynamic testing of all pluggable units away from the calculator, without interrupting its operation. No testing or adjusting of pluggable units is done on the calculator.