Guide to the National Company (NATCO) Atomic Clocks Records
NMAH.AC.0547

Administrative Information

Repository Information

Archives Center, National Museum of American History, 1998

P.O. Box 37012
 Suite 1100, MRC 601
 Washington, D.C., 20013-7012
 Phone: 202-633-3270
 archivescenter@si.edu

Conditions Governing Access note

The collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use note

Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.

Custodial History note

The collection was transferred from the Division of Electricity and Modern Physics (now the Division of Work and Industry) to the Archives Center in February, 1996.

Accruals note

Additional materials were added to this collection in January 2012. The materials were collected by National Museum of American History Curator, Paul Forman, and were transferred to the Archives Center in 2012.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

Materials in this collection were donated to the Division of Electricity and Modern Physics by Louis C. Lerner in December 1984. The bulk of the blueprints were purchased from Robert Reeves in August, 1991.

Processing Information note

Processed by Laura Zelasnic, August 1998; supervised by Alison Oswald, archivist.

Return to Table of Contents »


Summary Information

Repository
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
Creator
Bagnall, James
Creator
Bovarnick, Michael
Creator
Daly, Richard Timothy,, Jr.
Creator
George, James
Creator
Grant, Eugene
Creator
Holloway, Joseph
Creator
Lerner, Louis C.
Creator
Mainberger, Walter
Creator
NATCO, Inc. (Miscellaneous Information--(National Company, Inc.)
Creator
Orensberg, Arthur
Title
National Company (NATCO) Atomic Clocks Records
ID
NMAH.AC.0547
Date [inclusive]
1955-1968
Extent
5.50 Cubic feet; 16 boxes, 3 oversize folders
Language
English
Abstract
The records document the development of the first commercial atomic clocks by the National Company, Inc., (NATCO) of Malden, Massachusetts, a company known for producing specialized electronic equipment. The records include blueprints, technical drawings and schematics, technical and research reports, instruction manuals, photographs, and marketing materials.

Preferred Citation note

National Company (NATCO) Atomic Clocks Records, 1955-1968, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.

Return to Table of Contents »


Biographical/Historical note

An atomic clock is a cesium-based frequency standard. It operates by exposing cesium atoms to microwaves at one end of their resonant frequencies and then counting their corresponding cycles as a measure of time. In 1955, Louis Essen of Britain's National Physical Laboratory and William Markowitz of the U.S. Naval Observatory collaborated to produce the first measurement of what is now called the atomic second. In 1967, the 13th general Conference of Weights and Measures formally redefined the atomic second as 9,192,631,770. The atomic second became the internationally accepted unit of time. Atomic clocks are the most accurate of all clocks. The first clock in 1949 was based on the microwave resonances of the ammonia molecule. It was patented by Harold Lyons and Benjamin F. Husten. The first commercial atomic clocks were developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Research Laboratory of Electronics under J.R. Zacharias, a protégé of I.I. Rabi’s, circa 1955-1956 and were manufactured by the National Company, Inc. (NATCO) of Malden, Massachussets. NATCO, founded in 1914, was a well-respected company known for producing specialized electronic equipment in short runs. Prototype clocks bore the working name National Atomic Frequency Standard (NAFS). When the first commercial product was unveiled on October 3, 1956, it bore the trade name “Atomichron” and the model number NC-1001. Between 1956 and 1960, fifty Atomichrons were made and sold to military agencies, government agencies, and universities. Nine other models followed with refinements in size, portability and accuracy. The most radical design departure began with the NC3001 when the beam tube was placed in the horizontal position. Prices ranged from $10,000 to $50,000.

Patents covering NATCO’s frequency standards include: 2,960,663, 2,972,115, 2,991,389, 3,258,713, 3,305,290. In 1965, James J. Bagnall was assigned patent 3,167,772 for a Collision Avoidance System to NATCO. It never reached production.

Although supported by research contracts by all three military branches, especially the Army Signal Corps, NATCO failed to achieve a lasting profitability. It was liquidated, and its patents were acquired by Frequency Electronics in 1969.

Sources

1. PEM Drawing C43767, 1967, PEM Drawings (C38037-C43767), 1964-1967, Series 3, Components, 1955-1967, Atomic Clock Collection, Archives Center, Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History.

2. Forman, Paul. “Atomichron: The Atomic Clock from Concept to Commercial Product,” in Proceedings of the IEEE, vol. 73, p. 1181-1204, 1985.

Return to Table of Contents »


Scope and Contents note

The National Company (NATCO) Atomic Clocks Records, 1955-1968, documents the development of the first commercial atomic clocks. Materials were generated by the National Company, Inc. (NATCO) of Malden, Massachusetts which produced the clocks under contract for military branches of the U.S. government and also marketed them on a retail basis. The collection consists of blueprints, technical drawings and schematics, technical and research reports, instruction manuals, photographs, marketing materials, and a stock offering prospectus for NATCO. If one blueprint, drawing or parts list had two or more models listed, it is included under the first model cited.

Series 1, National Company, Inc., (NATCO), 1957-1959, consists of a stock offering prospectus, 1959, which describes the organization of NATCO, its executives and Board of Directors, financial condition, and products. Located in this series is a bound volume of photographs which accompanied NATCO’s contract bids. This volume contains photographs of a state-of-the-art machine shop and electronics laboratory of the late 1950s and early 1960s. A blueprint for a radio receiver— the product on which NATCO had built its reputation—is here.

Series 2, Atomichrons, 1955-1968, contains blueprints, original technical drawings and schematics, instruction manuals for setup and operation, technical and research reports, photographs and marketing materials arranged by Atomichron model from the National Atomic Frequency System (NAFS) prototype through the NC3701 and NC3702. The NC1001, the first commercial atomic clock, is fully documented. Technical Memoranda and proposals (TM-) related to particular models have been included with them. Other Technical Memoranda and proposals are in Series 3, Components, 1955-1957, and Series 5, Technical Memoranda and Reports, 1956-1957.

Series 3, Components, 1955-1967, contains materials related to the development of NATCo’s Cesium Beam Tube and other parts of the Atomichrons. It includes Technical Memoranda (TM-), blueprints and original drawings, original notes and computations, parts lists, and photographs. Also included in this series is material related to the Production Engineering Measure (PEM), 1962-1967. This was a piece of equipment designed and built by NATCO to measure the accuracy of each Cesium Beam Tube as it was produced.

Series 4, Collision Avoidance System, 1962-1967, consists of material related to James J. Bagnall’s patented Collision Avoidance System, using the Cesium Beam Frequency Standard. It includes his research report, the patent assigned to NATCO, and proposals and reports from NATCO representatives to Air Transportation Association conferences and meetings for 1967.

Series 5, Technical Memoranda and Reports, 1956-1967, consists of bound and numbered (TM-) technical memoranda. These are research reports and proposals for future research or products. Other technical memoranda are in Series 2, Atomichrons and Series 3, Components, 1955-1967.

Series 6, Reprints from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), 1953-1955, contains a bound volume of reprinted or photocopied papers which document research developments in Cesium Beam Frequency Standards at the time NATCO was establishing itself as a commercial producer.

Return to Table of Contents »


Arrangement note

The collection is arranged into six series.

Series 2, Atomichrons, 1955-1968

Subseries 1, National Atomic Frequency System (NAF), 1956

Subseries 2, NC1001, 1955-circa 1959

Subseries 3, NC1001, Polaris, 1956-1958

Subseries 4, NC2001, Militarized, 1956-1961

Subseries 5, NC3001, Airborne, 1956-1961

Subseries 6, NC1200, 1959

Subseries 7, Missileborne Atomichron, 1959-1960

Subseries 8, NC1501, 1958-1964

Subseries 9, NC1601, Economy, 1958-1964

Subseries 10, Tactical Frequency Standard Drawings, 1959

Subseries 11, Tri-Service CBFS, circa 1965

Subseries 12, NC3501, circa 1965, 1967

Subseries 13, NC3601, Aerospace, circa 1965

Subseries 14, NC3701, Commercial, 1964-1968

Series 3, Components, 1955-1967

Series 4, Collision Avoidance System, 1962-1967

Series 5, Technical Memoranda and Reports, 1956-1967

Series 6, Reprints from MIT, 1953-1955

Return to Table of Contents »


Related Materials

Related Archival Materials note

Materials at the National Museum of American History

Artifacts related to this collection are located in the Division of Work and Industry.

Materials at Other Organizations

Materials related to MIT staff and departments who were involved in NATCO’s Atomic Clock projects also can be found in the Historical Collections at the MIT Museum (http://web.mit.edu/museum/) and in the Institute Archives and Special Collections (http://libraries.mit.edu/archives/) of the MIT Libraries in Cambridge, Mass.

Return to Table of Contents »


Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology. -- Chronological subdivision--1950-1970;

Genre(s)

  • Blueprints--20th century.
  • Manuals--1950-1970
  • Photographs--1940-1970
  • Reports--1940-1970.
  • Technical drawings

Subject(s)

  • Airplanes--Collision avoidance--1950-1970
  • Atomic clocks
  • Clocks and watches--1950-1970
  • Cold War--1950-1970
  • Frequency standards--1950-1970
  • Inventions--1950-2000
  • Military-industrial complex--Massachusetts--Cambridge
  • Patents--1950-1970
  • United States--Air defenses--Military--1950-1970

Return to Table of Contents »


Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements note

Gloves must be worn when handling unprotected photographs and negatives.

Return to Table of Contents »


Collection Inventory

 Series 1: National Company, Inc. (NATCO), 1957-1959

Box Folder

Prospectus, 1959

1 1

National Company [work] experience, 1959

1 2

AN/WRR-2 receiver blueprint, 1957

1 3

Return to Table of Contents »


 Series 2: Atomichrons, 1955-1968

 Subseries 1: National Atomic Frequency System (NAFS), 1956

Box Folder

Blueprints (A17120-B17709), 1956

1 4

Blueprints (C16001-D16488), 1956

1 5

 Subseries 2: NC1001, 1955-circa 1959

Box Folder

Blueprints (A15696-A17802), 1955-1957

1 6

Blueprints (A15942-A27531), 1955-1957

2 1

Blueprints (B15942-B17148), 1955-1957

2 2

Blueprints, (B17155-B17265), 1955-1957

2 3

Blueprints (B17266-B25265), 1956-1957

2 4
Map-folder Drawer Folder

Blueprints (B20285-B22545), 1957-1959

3 19 1
Box Folder

Blueprints, (C16224-C20014), 1955-1957

2 5

Blueprints, (D17063-D17950), 1955-1957

2 6

Blueprints, (E1708-E17919), 1955-1957

3 1

Drawings (20285 and 22545), 1959

15 1
Map-case Drawer Folder

Drawing D17117, 1955-1956

3 19 1
Box Folder

Beam Tube Assembly Manual, 1957

3 2

Instruction manuals, 1957

3 3

Photographs, 1957

3 4

Short-Term Stability Study, final report, circa 1959

3 5

 Subseries 3: NC1001, Polaris, 1956-1958

Box Folder

Proposal, TM-144, 1956

3 6

Interim report, 1957

3 7

Interim development report, 1958

3 8
Map-case Drawer Folder

NC1106 blueprint (C29888), 1960

3 19 3

 Subseries 4: NC2001, Militarized, 1956-1961

Box Folder

TM-110, proposal, 1956

3 9

Blueprints (A18014-A29846), 1959

4 1

Blueprints (B25141-B32015), 1959

4 2
Map-folder Drawer Folder

Drawings (B26508-B34828), 1958-1961

3 19 2
Box Folder

Blueprints (C25313-C27783), 1959

4 3

Blueprints (C28464-C32728), 1959

4 4

Blueprints (D25300-D31961), 1959

4 5

Blueprints (E26452-E31052), 1959

5 1

Blueprints (J32008-J32727), 1959

5 2

Drawings (B26508-B34828), 1959

15 2

Beam tube assembly, evaluation and test procedures

5 3

Atomic beam frequency standard, final report, 1955-1957

5 4

Semi-final report, 1958

5 5

Instruction manual, circa 1959

5 6

NC2001-2011, instruction manuals, circa 1959

6 1-2

Final report, 1961

6 3

Range measurement with two atomic beam oscillators, 1957

6 4

TM-432, Proposal to measure directly the phase error in an atomic beam resonance tube, circa 1960

6 5

TM-520, Proposal to investigate and eliminate distortions in the Cs 133 resonance of the NC2001 cesium beam tube, 1963

6 6

 Subseries 5: NC3001, Airborne, 1956-1961

Box Folder

Blueprints (A24357-A28476), 1959

6 7

Blueprints (A28502-A32730), 1959

6 8

Blueprints (B18009-B32717), 1959

7 1

Drawings (B26520-B34858), 1958-1961

15 3

Blueprints (C22347-C27749), 1959

7 2

Blueprints (C27773-C33597), 1959

7 3

Blueprints (D25434-D28438), 1959

7 4

Blueprints (D28926-D32724), 1959

7 5

Blueprints (E27564-E53595), 1959

8 1

Blueprints (J28434-J29995), 1959

8 2

Completion Report, DR 1277, 1956

8 3

Instruction manual, 1959

8 4

Oscillator Handbook, circa 1959

8 5

TM-474, final report, 1961

8 6

NC3011, Drawings ( B34389-B34441), 1961

15 3

 Subseries 6: NC1200, 1959

Box Folder

Blueprints (A25466-D37180), 1959

9 1

Instruction manual, circa 1959

9 2

NC1201 Oscillator-Comparator Manual, circa 1959

9 3

NC1200 and 1201Transistorized Frequency Standard Manual, 1959

9 4

NC1251AAuxiliary Frequency Standard Manual, 1959

9 5

 Subseries 7: Missileborne Atomichron, 1959-1960

Box Folder

Detail drawings, 1959

9 6
Map-case Drawer Folder

Harmonic generator drawings, 1959

3 19 2

Cross-section drawings,  circa 1959

3 19 2
Box Folder

Drawings (notes J31998), circa 1959

15 4

Sketches, circa 1959

15 4

Blueprint, layout No. 3-X-288 multiplier module B-2-3-4, circa 1959

15 4

Drawings (notes J31998), 1959

15 4

Beam tube cross-sections, 1959

15 4
Map-case Drawer Folder

Oscillator drawings, 1959

3 19 2

Harmonic generator drawings, 1959

3 19 2
Box Folder

Technical proposal, Lockheed missiles,  circa 1959

9 7

Technical proposal for missileborne Atomichron volume 2, circa 1959

9 8

TM-438, Missleborne atomichron frequency standard, 1960

9 9

TM-453, Beam optics for MBA tube, 1960

9 10

 Subseries 8: NC1501, 1958-1964

Box Folder

Blueprints (B25432-C33985), 1958-1960

9 11

Drawings (B29931-B38097), 1959-1964

15 5
Map-case Drawer Folder

Blueprints (C38104-C38107), 1964

3 19 1

Blueprints (D34816-D38132), 1961-1962

3 19 1

Unnumbered cross-section, circa 1964

3 19 1
Box Folder

TM-504, Short Ttrm stability measurement, 1961

9 12

NC1501 and NC1511, Instruction Manual, 1961

9 13

 Subseries 9: NC1601, Economy, 1958-1964

Box Folder

Blueprints (A2448-C29179), 1959

9 14
Map-case Drawer Folder

Blueprints (C36380-C36499), 1962-1963

3 19 1

Blueprints (D36447-D36501), 1962-1963

3 19 1
Box Folder

Drawings, (B25448-B36509), 1958-1963

15 6

NC1601 (M) Instruction Manual, circa 1960

9 15

Cesium beam tube studies, 1962-1964

9 16

Contract, 1963

10 1

 Subseries 10: Tactical frequency standard drawings, 1959

Box
15
Folder
8

 Subseries 11: Tri-Service CBFS, circa 1965

Box Folder

TM-634, Proposal, volume 1, circa 1965

10 2

TM-634, Proposal, volume 2, circa 1965

10 3

Photographs, circa 1965

10 4

 Subseries 12: NC3501,  circa 1965, 1967

Map-case Drawer Folder

Blueprint (C43694), 1967

3 19 3
Box Folder

Photographs, circa 1965

10 5

 Subseries 13: NC3601, Aerospace, circa 1965

Box Folder

Photographs, circa 1965

10 6

Specifications, circa 1965

10 7

 Subseries 14: NC3701, Commercial, 1964-1968

Box Folder

Blueprints (A44252-D44251), 1967

10 8
Map-case Drawer Folder

Blueprints (C43656-C43663), 1967

3 19 3
Box Folder

Assembly beam tube, 1967

10 9

Preliminary Technical Manual, circa 1968

10 10

Preliminary Technical Manual, (incomplete), circa 1968

10 11

Specifications, 1968

10 12

Photographs, circa 1968

10 13
Map-case Drawer Folder

NC3702, drawing 38059, 1964

3 19 3

Blueprint (C43666), 1967

3 19 3

Return to Table of Contents »


 Series 3: Components, 1955-1957

Box Folder

RPD blueprints (B15971-B15979), 1955

11 1

TM-219, Cesium beam tube design information, 1957

11 2

Beam tube optics for offset and conventional designs, 1957

11 3

[Beam tube] magnetic measurement data, J. Mackowiack, 1957-1958

11 4

TM-307, Method of matching and compensating the RF structure of the beam tube, 1958, Constance W. Franklin, 1958

11 5

[Summary and notes on thirteen topics], Constance W. Franklin, circa 1958

11 6

TM-435, Notes on the design and testing of the temperature compensator for the 24" and 72" cesium beam tubes, 1960

11 7

Detail drawing, airborne and missleborne beam tubes, circa 1960

11 8

Cesium beam resonator (6201CBR) photographs, 1967

11 9

PEM quarterly reports, 1963-1964

11 10

PEM quarterly reports, 1965-1967

11 11

PEM parts list, 1965

12 1
Map-case Drawer Folder

PEM blueprints (C38037-43767), 1964-1967

3 19 3

17" PEM model drawings, unnumbered, 1964

3 19 3

PEM blueprints (E39972), 1965

3 19 3

PEM blueprints (D36505-D41155), 1965

3 19 2
Box Folder

PEM assembly blueprint (J39092), 1965

12 2

PEM drawings (B36449-B40086), 1962-1965

15 7

PEM acceptance test procedure, 1965

12 3

PEM acceptance test procedure, NC6201CBR, cesium beam resonator, 1967

12 4

PEM final report, 1967

12 5

General purposes blueprints, 1959

12 6

TM-621, Operational considerations for driving crystal oscillator for APFS, circa 1962

12 7

Stability computation notebook for tri-service crystal oscillator, 1965

12 8

Assembly blueprints (D111-158-D44458), 1966

12 9

Specifications, 1966

12 10

Calibrator blueprint and parts list [electron multiplier], 1962

12 11

General description of 60 degree electron multiplier, undated

12 12

Effect of noise on an oscillator controlled by a primary Rrference, Bagnall, undated

12 13

Specifications for processes and materials, 1960

12 14

Temperature compensator for airborne and Signal Corps, 1960

12 15

Parts lists, NC2001, 2021, 1200, 1501, 1601, 3001, 3011, 1960-1963

12 16

Parts list [unidentified], circa 1965

12 17

Unassigned blueprints, 1959-1967

13 1
Map-case Drawer Folder

ASD blueprints (C40321 and C41135), (D38984), 1965

3 19 1

Return to Table of Contents »


 Series 4: Collision Avoidance System, 1962-1967

Box Folder

James J. Bagnall paper, 1962

13 2

James J. Bagnall patent, 1965

13 3

Air Transport Association, memoranda and reports, 1967

13 4

National Company (NATCO) Atomic Clocks proposals and reports, 1967

13 5

National Company (NATCO) Atomic Clocks trip reports, 1967

13 6

Return to Table of Contents »


 Series 5: Technical Memoranda and Reports, 1956-1967

Box Folder

TM-124, Molecular beam oscillator for frequency control, 1956

13 7

TM-311, Carbon monoxide frequency standard, 1959

13 8

TM-419, Magnetohydrodynamic effects, 1960

13 9

TM-425, Magnetic resonance and possible applications in biophysics and medicine, circa 1960

13 10

TM-429, Ultrasensitive mass spectrometer, undated

13 11

TM-439, Processing of cesium, 1960

13 12

TM-446, Isochron Study, final report, two volumes, 1960

13 13-14

TM-458, Advanced techniques for frequency standards, circa 1960

13 15

TM-460, Precision frequency and time measurement techniques, circa 1960

14 1

TM-461, Investigation of a nuclear magnetic resonance oscillator, circa 1960

14 2

TM-462, Time and frequency requirements for ARDC division systems programs offices, circa 1960

14 3

TM-465, Application of universal frequency control systems to aerospace vehicles, circa 1960

14 4

TM-500, Investigation of coupled electron and nuclear spin systems, circa 1961

14 5

TM-525, Tactical atomic clock and frequency standard, circa 1961

14 6

TM-697, Atomic clock for satellite operation, circa 1962

14 7

Study and investigation of an improved proton maser antenna, 1966

14 8

TM-964, Portable, tactical CBFS, circa 1967

14 9

Technical proposal to develop a carbon monoxide frequency standard, circa 1950s

16 1

TM-689, Propagation of Microwaves Across a Plasma Filled Section of Waveguide, 1963 March 21

16 2

[TM-670?], Optics of an atomic beam, undated

16 3

TM-721, Final report, Rho-Rho navigation system study, phase 1, 1963 July 18

16 4

TM-875, The synthesis problem in the CBFS, 1965 March 1

16 5

TM-900, Universal Synthesizer for the CBFS, 1965 October

16 6

TM-925, Investigation of large order division and multiplication inphase-locked frequency synthesis, 1966 January 31

16 7

TM-980, Master timing of CAS ground station, undated

16 8

Return to Table of Contents »


 Series 6: Reprints from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), 1953-1956

Box Folder

Reprints and photocopies of articles about Atomic Clocks, 1953-1955

14 10

Return to Table of Contents »