Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Dining through the Decades

Part V: Our first computer

June 28, 2017 — If you asked a child to make a call with a rotary phone today, chances are they would have no clue what to do. Technology is constantly evolving. The moment you purchase a computer, camera or phone, it seems as if the technology is already outdated by the time you walk out of the store.

Now, take that feeling and multiply it by nearly 50 years. Our communication team had a good laugh and experienced a bit of shock recently when they found archives about when Schwan's Company installed its first computer.

In August 1970, Schwan’s acquired a used "NCR Series 100" that ran on punched cards color-coded for various functions. The NCR 100 was primitive in comparison to even the humblest of today’s desktop computers. It had only 16 kilobytes of memory, and it stored data on large disk packs that cost $350 each and held only four megabytes.

Just how large is 16 kilobytes? To put that into perspective, a simple email with no attachments and less than five sentences could easily amount to 16 kilobytes.

At the time the computer was installed, Schwan’s operated in a corporate office with limited space. There was no way the office could accommodate such a large machine. The solution the team came up with was to expand the office space by hoisting a 14-foot by 68-foot mobile home onto the roof of the ice cream plant.

Installing this computer was clearly a chore, but it also set the company up with more efficient processes that were needed during a time of tremendous growth. The computer quickly showed its worth — even if it was only by automating payroll. In earlier years, bookkeepers had to calculate paychecks manually for each employee, a process requiring well over a day. With the new computer, it only took two hours to complete.

Today, we take our computers for granted. Many office employees carry laptops or tablets in their briefcases, and our sales force uses handheld devices that they can fit in their pockets. Computers are used in nearly every aspect of business, whether its administrative functions, keeping inventory or selling food. Computer technology certainly has come a long way for Schwan's.

"Dining Through the Decades” is a blog series commemorating our company’s 65 years of commitment, quality, growth and service with customers, consumers and employees all across the United States. We invite you to stay tuned throughout the year as we continue to share some of our company's best stories and highlights of how we got to where we are now."

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