ACBL Bridge Beat #64: Honeywell H-800

A Honeywell H-800 computer, one of the highest speed giant electronic brains in operation, dealt all the hands that were played in the Life Masters’ Pair Championship at the 1963 Los Angeles NABC then scored the results to a 25 point top with phenomenal speed and accuracy.

Sometimes, due to human slowness rather than computer lag, the scores were as “long” as twenty minutes coming out – quite a feat when scoring 192 pairs in six different sections with the 25 top coming by a comparison between two sections. But when the computer operated at its best, it began to tell players their scores in less than ten minutes after the last trick had been played.

Actually, the H-800 was ready with complete scores only 45 seconds after the last punch card had been fed into its memory circuits. The rest of the ten minute lag was taken up preparing the final cards, printing the results on the regular teleprompter paper at a rate of 15 lines a second and telecasting them via closed-circuit from the University of Southern California, where the computer was located, to the Biltmore Hotel playing site about five minutes away. In less than a minute, it provided: names, scores and ranking for the 20 leading pairs; individual scores for each pair entered; a recap of each hand showing the matchpoint value of every score achieved during play. Later a large recap sheet was also prepared by the computer for posting at the hotel – a sheet similar to the usual recap produced by a human scoring staff.

Charles Goren and Al Sobel eye the computer as it prints out the deals for the SI Intercity match

Scores are fed to closed circuit TV

TD Bob Wilkins checking and verifying scores before dispatch

Dispatchers transmitting scores to punch operators

Players viewing scores ten minutes after the play of the last trick

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