The following is the text of a December 2, 1954 IBM press release regarding the first public demonstration of NORC and its official "delivery" to the U.S. Navy.
The first public demonstration of NORC (Naval Ordnance Research Calculator), fastest and largest capacity electronic calculator in existence, which has been built by International Business Machines Corporation for the Bureau of Ordnance, U.S. Navy, was conducted today at the Watson Scientific Computing Laboratory at Columbia University in the presence of approximately 150 representatives of the U.S. Navy and other Government departments, education and scientific research institutions and industrial companies. The machine was accepted on behalf of the Bureau of Ordnance by Captain C. K. Bergin, USN, Assistant Chief of research and development of the Bureau, from Thomas J. Watson, Jr., president of IBM.
At a luncheon following the demonstration, Professor John Von Neumann, of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University, and an appointee to the Atomic Energy Commission, discussed possible uses for the NORC other than for the immediate problems of the Bureau of Ordnance, instancing the field of geophysics as having great possibilities.
It is now "practical and feasible" to forecast, with the NORC, the weather for an entire hemisphere thirty or sixty days ahead, by calculations occupying perhaps 24 hours, with results about as good as those obtained by an experienced subjective weather forecaster, "which are very good." Calculations similar to those now made, forecasting weather over the area of the United States for 24 hours in advance, could be made on the NORC in perhaps half a minute, he stated.
Complete calculation of the tidal motions of all the oceans, the marginal movements near the continents as well as the main motions of the oceans, is now, with the NORC, a matter of days and therefore feasible. He also declared that calculation of the hydrodynamics of the earth's fluid core, the movements of which are responsible for the main phenomena of terrestrial magnetism, "becomes probably accessible for the first time."
In the statistical field, dealing with matters which are not wholly mechanical, such as troop operations and logistic operations which involve purely accidental factors like the prevailing weather during the operation, command decisions which have not yet been officially made can be stipulated and various solutions for various alternatives calculated. This has been done before on a minor scale but it takes too long to do on a large scale. "In this field the importance of NORC is enormous," Dr. Von Neumann said.
He concluded by pointing out that the NORC was assembled less than two months ago and put on test less than two weeks ago, yet in a test yesterday (Wednesday. Dec. 1) it ran for four hours without an error, doing in this period more work than any calculator of ten years ago has performed in its entire lifetime. He termed this performance "completely fantastic; I doubt if it has ever been done before."
Dr. Grayson L. Kirk, president of Columbia University, stated that during the test period the NORC will be available to the University for important research projects, particularly in the field of nuclear physics, before it is shipped to the Naval Proving Ground, Dahlgren, Va. to be installed in the Computation Laboratory already established there.
Thomas J. Watson, chairman of the board of IBM, declared that "there is no mystery about these machines. The mystery is how the human brain has been able to develop them. These devices are merely small tools which men have devised to help them do a better job."
Other speakers were: the Reverend John M. Krumm, chaplain of the University, who pronounced the invocation; Captain Bergin; Dr. Wallace J. Eckert, director, pure science department, Watson Laboratory; Prof. B. D. Wood, Columbia University; and B. L. Havens, IBM development engineer in charge of the NORC project.