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Ferranti Packard 6000

In 1962, the Saskatchewan Power Corporation bought the largest of only five FP6000 computers ever built by the Canadian firm, Ferranti Packard. The FP 6000, an innovation in the relatively new area of general-purpose computers, was one of the first to offer time-sharing and multiprogramming in a mid-sized computer, which allowed SaskPower to run engineering calculations alongside a customer billing program. The computer filled a room and required its own air conditioner; however, the size of its memory was nearly 10,000 times smaller than what is available on a laptop computer today. The homegrown expertise that created the FP 6000 began with work on the Royal Canadian Navy’s DATAR (Digital Automated Tracking and Resolving) project in 1949. The rights to the FP 6000 computer were sold by its British parent company to International Computers and Tabulators (ICT), who recognized the potential for the machine and quickly made it the foundation for their 1900 series, from which thousands were sold in Europe. The FP 6000 became the ICT 1904; a proposal to design and manufacture ICT’s 1905 and 1906 computers in Canada was not successful, putting Ferranti Packard—and Canada—out of the computer business. The FP 6000 has been compared to the Avro Arrow; ironically, the two companies were neighbours in Malton, Ontario. The SaskPower system, after being in use for eighteen years, was donated to the Saskatchewan Western Development Museum in 1983.

Daryl Hepting

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