Electrologica X1 computer, circa 1960
The year is 1956 AD. The worldwide field of computing is already
entirely dominated by players from the USA. Well, not entirely...
One small band of indomitable Dutch computer scientists still holds
out. And life is not easy for the giants in the industry when this
tiny factory manages to bring a line of truly revolutionary systems
to the market... This is a true story and this website is dedicated
to documenting and preserving its lasting legacy.
The name of this factory ? N.V. Electrologica
Their initial product: the EL-X1
A desk-sized all solid-state computer that had a lot of "firsts",
both in hardware and software. Some of this innovative technology
is still being used literally everywhere to this day. Hidden deep
inside the device you are using to access this website for example.
Only a few years earlier the Amsterdam-based Mathematical Centre (MC)
had successively designed and constructed the experimental first
generation vacuum tube computers ARRA, FERTA and ARMAC for internal
use. When the decision was made to further professionalize this
undertaking an unlikely partner was found in the form of the NILLMIJ.
At the time a huge Dutch insurance company with a keen eye for
interesting and novel investment opportunities.
Thus Electrologica was born.
The EL-X1 was well-received internationally and they managed to sell
about 30 systems in total. The confidence inspired by this success
gave rise to the next chapter in our story. A new line of faster,
next generation products and a newly built state-of-the-art factory in
Rijswijk. The activities mainly centered around the flagship EL-X8
mainframe and its peripherals. In hindsight, we know that this system
would become the definitive pinnacle of independent computer
development in the Netherlands. The last architecture in the ARRA
It was this EL-X8 with its "interrupt system to fall in love with"
that enabled E.W. Dijkstra and his team to complete their most
ambitious software project: the THE multiprogramming system. The
very first operating system ever to sport a kernel.
The core team of hardware designers remained virtually unchanged from
the early days at the MC. A tight group of extremely skilled and
motivated individuals working together to share their brainchild with
the world. The line of X-series products all featured a similar
quirky 27-bit, one's complement, single address architecture that was
completely unique to these computers.
In its heyday the workforce consisted of over 300 people. Even with
this many people it took several months to build a single computer
from scratch. Qualified personnel versed in computer technology were
still a rare find so an internal educational program was set up
to school new candidates.
By the time Sgt. Pepper's was released every serious technical
institute in the Netherlands was running its software on Electrologica
hardware. But even now the research, development and manufacturing
costs were constantly swallowing up money. Without more sorely
needed financial support it proved to be impossible to make the next
big leap to stay competitive: integrated circuits. In 1968 the ailing
company was absorbed into the Philips organization and the curtain
fell for the X-series and Electrologica as a separate entity.
Two decades after its inception at the MC a Dutch tradition ended.
We thank and acknowledge Philips, for generously granting us the use
of their Electrologica brand name for our modest effort.