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Honeywell vs. Sperry Rand records

Identifier: CBI 1

Scope and Content Note

This collection contains pretrial depositions, plaintiff exhibits, deposition exhibits, trial testimony, trial exhibits, the final opinion and judgement, and indexes from the 1971 Honeywell vs. Sperry Rand suit. The trial featured extensive testimony by many early computer designers and engineers detailing the efforts in the United States to build the first digital computers. The trial included thousands of exhibits, which included early research reports and notebooks, pictures, and descriptions of early computing machines and programs, and films on the ENIAC. Honeywell, Inc. donated most of the materials in the collection and all of the indexes. A copy of the final judgement was donated by Judge Earl Larson.

The final computerized plaintiff's brief contains the plaintiff's and defendant's arguments and replies, and the actions of the court on motions. The brief is arranged by event statements, statements alleged by the plaintiff to be fact. The defendant then challenges or agrees with these statements. The final brief is available only on microfiche.

There are eleven indexes on microfiche that provide cross-references to the exhibits, trial transcripts, and event statements from the plaintiff's final brief. Honeywell was responsible for the extensive indexing of the collection. A description of the indexes may be found in the container list.

The complete trial transcript is on microfiche, and there are paper photocopies of the trial testimony of John W. Mauchly. There are transcripts of many pretrial depositions, including John V. Atanasoff; his former wife, Lura Atanasoff; Sam Legvold; and John Mauchly. Some of the transcripts were donated by Dr. Arthur W. Burks; the rest came from Honeywell, Inc. There are extensive deposition exhibits, many of which became trial exhibits. A cross listing of deposition and trial exhibit numbers is attached.

The nineteen cubic feet of trial exhibits include letters, reports, notebooks, and publications. Most of these are photocopies. Also included are photographs of physical exhibits, photographic exhibits, and two motion picture films. The exhibits were used to support Honeywell's allegations in their final brief. Some of the trial exhibits are filed as deposition exhibits, and a cross-reference index is available. Honeywell destroyed most of the exhibits dating after 1951 due to obligations relating to companies holding the original documents. However, the collection does contain some exhibits dating after 1951. Trial exhibits are arranged numerically by exhibit number, and those with unknown numbers are arranged by subject.

The sets of microfiche were poorly processed so it may not be possible to provide photocopies of some frames. Some photocopies are barely legible and may not reproduce well.

Related collections are the Larson papers, CBI 31, a collection of correspondence to and from Judge Larson relating to the trial; and the Robert Kalb papers, CBI 4, an early computer engineer and witness in the trial.


  • 1846-1973
  • Majority of material found within ( 1925-1973)


Language of Materials


Access to materials:

Access to the collection is unrestricted.


The Charles Babbage Institute holds the copyright to all materials in the collection, except for items covered by a prior copyright (such as published materials). Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provisions of the copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code).

Historical Note

The Honeywell-Sperry Rand suit grew out of the ENIAC patent, which covered basic patents relating to the design of electronic digital computers. After the patent was granted to the Sperry Rand Corporation in 1964, the corporation demanded royalties from all major participants in the computer industry. Honeywell refused to cooperate, so Sperry Rand then filed a patent infringement suit against Honeywell in 1967. Honeywell responded in the same year with an antitrust suit charging that the Sperry Rand-IBM cross-licensing agreement was a conspiracy to monopolize the computer industry, and also that the ENIAC patent was fraudulently procured and invalid. Honeywell filed suit against Sperry Rand and its subsidiary, Illinois Scientific Instruments, Inc., in U.S. District Court (Minnesota District, 4th Div., No. 4-67-Civ. 138).

The ENIAC patents were filed in 1947 by John W. Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert, arising from the work conducted at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1946, Eckert and Mauchly left the Moore School and formed their own commercial computer enterprise, the Electronic Control Company, which was later incorporated as the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation. In 1950 Remington Rand acquired Eckert-Mauchly. The rights to the ENIAC patent eventually passed to Sperry Rand as a result of a merger of the Sperry Corporation and Remington Rand in 1955.

Following extensive discovery procedures the case went to trial in June 1971. Over 32,000 exhibits, some of several hundred pages each, were introduced as evidence. The trial transcript was over 20,000 pages long. In April 1973 Judge Earl Larson found that Honeywell had infringed on the ENIAC patent, but the patent was invalid because the ENIAC had been in public use for over a year before the application was filed. The 1956 agreement between Sperry Rand and IBM was determined to be a "technological merger" and a conspiracy in restraint of trade in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act because the two companies together had 95 percent of the relevant market at the time. No damages or court costs were awarded to either party of the dispute.

The court also declared that the invention of the ENIAC was derived from the work of John V. Atanasoff at Iowa State University. Atanasoff and a graduate student, Clifford Berry, had developed a prototype electronic computer in 1938, later named the Atanasoff Berry Computer (ABC). John Mauchly visited Atanasoff in 1941 and was aware of the ABC, and Atanasoff believed that the design of the ENIAC was based on the ABC. This meeting became an important issue for the plaintiff during the trial.


  1. Atanasoff, John Vincent, Advent of Electronic Digital Computing,Annals of the History of Computing, Vol. 6, no. 3, (July 1984) 229-282.
  2. Brock, Gerald W., The U.S. Computer Industry: A Study of Market Power. Cambridge, Mass.: Ballinger Publishing, 1975.
  3. Mauchly, Kathleen R., John Mauchly's Early Years,Annals of the History of Computing, Vol. 6 no 2 (April 1984) 116-138.
  4. Stern, Nancy, From ENIAC to UNIVAC. Bedford, Mass.: Digital Press, 1981.


52 boxes (20.75 cubic feet)


This collection contains pretrial depositions, plaintiff exhibits, deposition exhibits, trial testimony, trial exhibits, the final opinion and judgement, and indexes from the 1971 Honeywell vs. Sperry Rand suit.

Arrangement of Collection

The materials in this collection are arranged into the following groups:

  1. Trial Records
  2. Deposition Records
  3. Briefs
  4. Final Judgement
  5. Indexes


The records were given to the Charles Babbage Institute by Honeywell, Inc., 1984.

Additional Information

Microfiche Indices Descriptions

  1. The following are descriptions of the data to be found on each microfiche. Descriptions follow the same order as fiche listing above. Further information on the physical arrangement of data on the fiche is filed with the fiche.

Brief Indexes

  1. 1. FINAL CMPTR BRF I-V (24 fiche): Plaintiff's (Honeywell) Final Computerized Brief. Includes: Event statement, defendant's pretrial admission or denial, plaintiff's comment on defendant's reply, revisions of event statements and replies, defendant's post trail argument (Aug. 15, 1972), plaintiff's response (Sept. 30, 1972), defendant's final argument (Nov. 29, 1972), full identification of exhibits used by plaintiff to support event statements, and transcript page references.

Transcript Indexes

  1. 2. TRIAL TRANSCRIPT (97 fiche): Trial transcript
  2. 3. TRAN KWIC 03/13/72 (3 fiche): An alphabetical keyword listing from trial transcript. Each entry is preceded by a transcript page number.
  3. 4. TRANSCRIPT KWIC (2 fiche): An alphabetical keyword listing from plaintiff's testimony summaries. Each entry is preceded by event number from plaintiff's final brief and is followed by trial transcript page number.

Exhibit Indexes

  1. 5. TRIAL EXHIBIT KWIC (6 fiche): An alphabetical keyword listing of subject matter descriptions of all exhibits of record. Includes: Date of document, keyword, exhibit number, and whether submitted by plaintiff or defendant.
  2. 6. TE KWIC 12/07/71 (16 fiche): An alphabetical keyword listing of subject matter descriptions of the trial exhibits of record. Each entry is followed by an exhibit number, local ID number, and the date of the exhibit.
  3. 7. HEX OFFERED 01/09 (6 fiche): A numerical listing of trial exhibits offered by plaintiff (Honeywell). Includes: Trial exhibit number, date, author or addressee, source, subject matter description, and status of exhibit.
  4. 8. PLAINTIFF'S EXHIBITS (7 fiche): A numerical listing of Plaintiff's (Honeywell) trial exhibits. Includes trial exhibit number, date of exhibit, type of document, author or addressee, and subject matter description of exhibit.
  5. 9. EXHIBIT/BRIEF X-REF (2 fiche): Plaintiff's (Honeywell) exhibits/brief cross-reference index. Includes: Exhibit number and event statement supported by it.
  6. 10. AUTHOR/CHRONO (8 fiche): An alphabetical listing by author of all exhibits of record. Exhibits of each author are chronological by date. Includes: Author, addressee, date of document, exhibit number, and subject of exhibit.
  7. 11. AUTHOR/ADDRESSEE (8 fiche): An alphabetical listing by author of all exhibits of record. Exhibits of each author alphabetical by addressee. Includes: author, addressee, date of document, exhibit number, and subject of exhibit.

Allegations Index

  1. 12. PL. ALLEGATIONS (1 fiche): A numerical listing of the major (undecimalized) allegations in the final brief, serving as a general subject matter index and as plaintiff's proposed findings of fact.
Honeywell vs. Sperry Rand Records, 1846-1973 (bulk 1925-1973). Finding Aid.
Prepared by Bruce H. Bruemmer, March 1991; revised by Lynn Leitte, November 1999.
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Charles Babbage Institute Archives Collecting Area

Elmer L. Andersen Library
222 - 21st Avenue South
Minneapolis MN 55455