50 years ago--Timesharing, WU SICOM [telecom]

50 years ago, the Oct 1968 issue of Computers & Automation was devoted to timesharing.

Articles included:

SELECTING A VENDOR OF TIME-SHARED COMPUTER SERVICES Specific suggestions on how a non-user should go about selecting a time-sharing or remote-batch computer service, and how a current user should evaluate his present service ... with some general comments on the current state and future potential of the time-sharing industry.

MULTIPLE-ACCESS, TIME-SHARING, OPERATING SYSTEM A case history - how the "Multiple Access Time Sharing" (MATS) System at Northern Electric Co., ltd., Ottawa, Canada, operates.

A NEW CONCEPT IN TIME SHARING: DEDICATED SYSTEMS SHARE ONE COMPUTER A unique type of sharing in which several discrete, real-time, on-line information systems share a computer at a neutral site.

COMPUTER RESOURCES SHARING-SOME COMMENTS AND PREDICTIONS Norman Doelling What do ti~e-sharing systems currently offer? Where are present trends likely to lead?

DATA PROCESSING SERVICES: BANKING'S NEW PRODUCT Why banks are becoming a powerful competitor in providing data processing services.

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In the Nov 1968 there was a brief mention of Western Union's new SICOM service, a computerized message switching service for the securities industry:


A computer-controlled system designed for shared use by many firms in the securities industry - providing cross-country communication of buy and sell orders in seconds - is now being operated by Western Union for its first Wall Street customer I Shields & Company.

Called SICOM (Securi ties Industry Communications) Western Union's new system serves the specialized needs of brokerage firms. The system interconnects a subscribing brokerage firm's headquarters wire and order rooms, its branches and correspondents, the trading floors, of the New York and American Stock Exchanges, and other special points desired by the subscriber. It provides for the fast transmission of buy-sell orders, execution reports, market news reports, administrative messages and other record information.

Western Union engineered the entire system and provides all components, including computers, circuits, teleprinters, outstation equipment, programming and maintenance. The only equipment located on the premises of a SICOM subscriber is an automatic teleprinter supplied by Western Union.

From photos from other sources, it appeared the system used the Teletype model 28 ASR. This is surprising to me in that the model 28 was a Baudot (5 bit) machine and I would think by then an ASCII machine would've been preferred. An average message of 80 characters took 20 seconds to transmit. The initial capacity was 70,000 messages per hour. Messages were switched at the Western Union computer center at Mahwah, NJ.

By way of contrast, at that time, the interstate day telegram rate was $2.25 for the first 15 words, and 9c each additional word. The interstate night letter was $1.70 for the first 100 words and 1.5c for each additional word. At that time, telegram service still represented a good chunk of Western Union's revenues, although WU sought to transition over to other services like SICOM that had more of a future and profit potential.

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