OVERVIEW OF THE COLLECTION
Title: Herb Grosch Papers
Collection Date(s): 1938-1998
Extent and Forms of Material: ( 5 cubic feet; 15 boxes)
Creator: Herb Grosch
Abstract: The Herb Grosch Papers, 1948-1998, cover the life and career of an early computer professional. It consists of correspondence, clippings, photographs, computer disks, reports, and other printed materials.
Repository : Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. firstname.lastname@example.org 202-633-3270
Collection Number: AC0703
Processing Note: Processed by Charles Hargrove (intern) August 2001; revised Alison Oswald, archivist, March 2010.
INFORMATION FOR USERS OF THE COLLECTION
Conditions Governing Access: The collection is open for research use.
Physical Access : Use only as needed. For example: Researchers must use microfilm copy. Researchers must handle unprotected photographs with gloves. Researchers must use reference copies of audiovisual materials. When no reference copy exists, the Archives Center staff will produce reference copies on an “as needed” basis, as resources allow. Collection located off-site storage.
Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use: Copyright held by the Smithsonian Institution. Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Reproduction permission from Archives Center: reproduction fees may apply.
Preferred Citation: Title and date of item, Jane Doe Papers, dates, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, box number X, folder number XX, digital file number XXXXXXXX
IN-DEPTH INFORMATION ABOUT THE COLLECTION
Administrative/Biographical History: Herb Grosch (1918-2010) was born in Saskatoon, Canada and became a United States citizen with his father's naturalization. He attended grade school in Ontario and Ohio and high school in Michigan. He attended the University of Michigan from 1934 to 1941, receiving his B.S. in 1938 and his PhD in 1942, both in astronomy. An outspoken and controversial figure, Grosch's professional career was marked with numerous jobs. In 1941-1942 he was an astronomer for the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. and later during World War II worked on fire control and optical engineering. Grosch's astronomical work required many calculations to be done by hand, thus he was well qualified to deal with the computational issues involved in early computer work. In 1945 he was hired by IBM for the Watson Scientific Computing Laboratory in New York, first to do backup calculations for the Manhattan Project and then to help run the Selective Sequence Electronic Calculator (SSEC), an early computer. Grosch was fired in 1951 and moved on to MIT where he worked as a part of the design group for the WHIRLWIND II computer. In 1952 he joined General Electric (GE) and set up and oversaw computer operations in Ohio, Massachusetts, and Arizona. In 1958 he returned to IBM and was the manager of their space program, before being fired again in 1959. Following IBM he moved to Europe and began consulting, notably a survey of the European computer industry for Control Data in 1962-1963. He returned to the United States to work again for GE in 1965, heading the DEACON project at GE's TEMPO think tank. Grosch left GE again in 1967. From 1967 through 1970 he directed the Center for Computer Sciences and Technology for the National Bureau of Standards. From 1973 to 1976 he was the editor of Computerworld magazine. Since then Grosch has lived in both Europe and America and done both consulting work and writing. He wrote and published a autobiography, Computer: Bit Slices of a Life, that describes his rather tempestuous relationships with GE and IBM. Grosch is perhaps best known for Grosch's Law which says the computing power increases as a square of the cost, or more concretely, in order to perform a computation twice as cheaply you must do it four times as fast.
Scope and Content: The Herb Grosch Papers, 1948-1998, cover the life and career of an early computer professional. It consists of correspondence, clippings, photographs, computer disks, reports, and other printed materials. The collection is approximately 5 cubic feet and is divided into six series: Series 1, Personal Materials, 1938-1998; Series 2, General Electric (GE), 1955-1968, 1993-1995; Series 3, Control Data Corporation, 1961-1966; Series 4, Other Employment, 1945-1997; Series 5, Professional Interests, 1954-1993; and Series 6, Computer History, 1945-1996. The largest and most comprehensive series within the collection focuses on Grosch's employment, in various capacities, by General Electric. The Control Data material is of special interest due to its in-depth studies of the European computer market in the early 1960s.
Series 1, Personal Materials, 1938-1998 , illustrates Grosch's personal life and consists of biographical sketches, identification and business cards, vaccination certificates, daily planners/diaries, flight logs, diplomas, a dissertation, correspondence, articles by and about him, photographs, and the manuscript of his autobiography, Computer,Bit Slices of a Life. The manuscript is of special interest, in that it is a description of Grosch's life up to the 1960s. Also providing personal descriptions of Grosch's life is an extensive chronology of employment written by Grosch. The bulk of the materials date from the mid 1950s through the mid 1960s, with another smaller concentration of correspondence in the early 1990s.
Series 2, General Electric (GE), 1953-1968, 1993-1995, contains correspondence, clippings, photographs and printed materials related to Grosch's two tenures at GE. The series is divided into four subseries: Subseries 1, General GE Materials, 1953-1966; Subseries 2, GE Evandale Plant, 1952, 1955-1956; Subseries 3, GE Computer Department, 1954-1958, 1993-1995; and Subseries 4, GE TEMPO, 1963-1968. The subseries about the Evandale plant and the Arizona Computer Department are most comprehensive, describing the projects from their inception until Grosch's departure. Also of interest to those studying GE history is the collection of letters between Grosch and his Arizona boss, H.R. Oldfield, discussing Oldfield's book about GE and its failure in the computer business.
Series 3, Control Data Corporation, 1961-1966, contains correspondence, reports and printed materials covering Grosch's consulting work with Control Data. The bulk of the material has to do with a survey of the European computer industry and market, undertaken by Grosch for Control Data. Included are over forty reports that Grosch composed from plant visits he made to various European computer companies. Also included is the overall summary of these individual reports.
Series 4, Other Employment, 1945-1994, contains correspondence, printed materials, clippings and photographs related to other employment pursued by Grosch. The series covers Grosch's work at IBM, the Corporation for Economic and Industrial Research (CEIR), and his editorial reign at Computerworld magazine. Of interest to IBM researchers are the photos of early IBM gatherings at Endicott, New York and early IBM machines at the Watson Scientific Computer Laboratory.
Series 5, Professional Interests, 1954-1996, consists of articles and other printed materials related to Grosch's scientific and technical interests. The majority of the series deals with Grosch's interest in computers, their applications and their effects upon society. A smaller set of material relates to other Grosch interests, notably astronomy and scientific standards.
Series 6, Computer History, 1949-1996, consists of clippings, reports, and correspondence illustrating Grosch's interest in the history of computing. Of special interest is a report from U.S. Department of Commerce that lists the technical specifications of a number of old computers. Also, in addition to many more famous computing pioneers, Grosch collected information on English mathematician, L.J. Comrie, including a biographical sketch, photographs and correspondence carried on with Comrie's widow and son.
System of Arrangement: The collection is arranged into six series.
Series 1, Personal Materials, 1938-1998
Languages: Some materials in German.
Acquisition Information: The materials in the collection were donated by Herb Grosch on October 13, 1999.
Accruals: The Archives Center received an addendum of .50 cubic feet in March 2010 from Ella Doyle.
Related Archival Materials: Grosch was interviewed as a part of the Smithsonian computer oral history project and the taped interviews exist in Collection AC0196, the Computer Oral History Collection, in the Archives Center.