Dundee’s ‘first’ NCR 500 computer was a snip… at £50,000

The original NCR 500

Fifty years ago, an announcement rang out that would change the landscape of Dundee right through to the present day.

Local manufacturing firm NCR revealed that it was establishing a production line for the NCR 500 — dubbed “Dundee’s first computer”.

The computer cost between £15,000 and £50,000 – a far cry from today’s prices.

NCR workers were shipped to the United States for training before they returned to Dundee to begin producing the computer.

Industry leaders today paid tribute to the computer and the lasting legacy that it left on the city.

David Hamilton, executive vice-president of Dundee-based mobile and online game developer Ninja Kiwi, said that the company “wouldn’t be here today” if it wasn’t for the foundations laid in the city by NCR’s 500 computer.

A 1980 NCR computer.
A 1980 NCR computer.

He said: “Computers are vital for us. Without them we wouldn’t be able to do what we are doing.

“We definitely wouldn’t be working with as many computers in our offices as we do if they were still priced between £15,000 and £50,000 like the NCR 500 was.

“It is amazing how far things have come in such a short time.”

Mr Hamilton said he believes that the future is even brighter for Dundee in terms of the impact that computers have had on the city – with the Ninja Kiwi Bloons TD 5 currently a worldwide bestseller.

He added: “We released our first game in 2009 and the difference is night and day.

“It is 100% going to be an even brighter future – it is much easier to get into the market. People can get their hands on a computer for a couple of hundred pounds and start developing.”

Professor Gregor White, head of school of arts, media and computer games at Abertay University, said Dundee was a city that embraced technology from its first computer all the way through to the present day.

He said: “Since computers first arrived in Dundee 50 years ago the city has been responsible for the manufacture of the Spectrum computer at Timex.

“Dundee has also created the most successful computer games franchise in the world in Grand Theft Auto. It continues to produce new products for outstanding games franchises like Minecraft and Angry Birds.

“As computers have become increasingly embedded in everyday life, companies in Dundee are innovating in the use of digital technologies and media in new areas from cybersecurity, health and social care to medical and financial applications.

 

“New technologies like virtual reality and the internet of things continue to offer new opportunities for digital businesses in the city and our enterprising graduates.

“I can only see the next 50 years being more exciting and prosperous for Dundee.”

David Tebbutt, 73, was a programmer for NCR working on the 500 computer model in 1966 when it first hit the market.

He told the Tele today that it initially took him six months to complete work on each computer.

He said: “The NCR 500 was primarily used for accounting purposes – it had other uses but it was mainly used for company accounts.

“Some military vehicles were kitted out with the NCR 500 although I am not sure what use they were.

“I worked with it for quite a few years and all this time later I am still working with computers. It has been an amazing experience and life and it is all thanks to the NCR 500.”

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