The Radio Corporation of America (RCA) BIZMAC computer was developed under a US$ 4.5 million contract from the U.S. Department of Defense Military Assistance Program awarded in 1951 to provide logistic support for the foreign military aid program. The first BIZMAC was installed at the Ordnance Tank-Automotive Command (OTAC) in Detroit, Michigan in 1956.
The BIZMAC, which in its largest configuration used over 30,000 vacuum tubes and 70,000 solid state diodes, took an unusual approach to providing access to a very large (for the era) database. Instead of the usual configuration of a relatively small number of tape drives on which operators would load tapes as required, BIZMAC supported hundreds of drives on which tapes were permanently mounted, providing access to data as quickly as the tape could be positioned to the desired block of data. This design is described in U.S. Patent 2,885,659 “Electronic Library System”, filed in September 1954 and granted in May, 1959, by RCA inventor Arnold M. Spielberg, whose son Steven later went to Hollywood to make movies.
Only around six BIZMAC computers were ever built. One, installed at the Higbee Department Store in Cleveland, Ohio, implemented the world’s first point-of-sale computer system with the BIZMAC connected to ten satellite units. The original BIZMAC remained in service at OTAC until its retirement in 1962.