Burroughs Datatron B-205 – The first computer in Brazil

Did you know that PUC-Rio hosted the first computer installed in Brazil? Learn a bit more about our history: 

The Burroughs Datatron B-205 arrived in Brazil by an effort of a consortium that included  CNPq (Brazilian research funding agency), IPqM (Research Institute of the Brazilian Navy) and the foreign office Itamaraty, which brought it to PUC-Rio, chosen for its academic excellence. The computer was put in the Rio Data Centro (RDC) building. At the inauguration ceremony many important people of the time, such as president Juscelino Kubitschek, were present

A large room had to be used to house the computer, as it weighed approximately a  ton and contained 1,600 double triode valves, a huge set of solid state diodes, resistors and capacitors that together consumed 30 kVA of power. To keep it running smoothly, a powerful air conditioning system had to be installed in the RDC building. 

Other highlights of the large computer were the amount of memory that it had, 4 thousand words of 10 decimal digits, very much  for that time, and the fast basic operations. For example, a simple sum, took 0.1 milliseconds, which was surprisingly fast for the time. Basic output, i.e. printing, could be done in two ways: a hammer typewriter or an IBM tabulating printer that printed 60 lines of 80 numeric characters per minute. 

This first computer cost about one million dollars. Today, it is estimated that this would be equivalent to about US$10 million, which shows the importance of the equipment for the time. To use it, users had to make an appointment, sometimes days in advance, as the Burroughs B-205 was only capable of running one user job at a time. 

It was from the prominence of PUC-Rio’s Rio Data Center (RDC), created to host and operate the Burroughs B-205 and later several other mainframes that followed it until the 1980s, that the Departamento de Informática (DI) was created in 1965, with the main objective to train people to program computers and start the development of the area of  “Computer Science”. And from this uncertain and adventurous beginning, the first Brazilian graduate courses in computing emerged. As a side part, the creation and naming of the Department is said to have had a nice side-product: it coined the term Informatica, until then non-existent in the Portuguese language.