Milestone-Proposal:CRC102-A activated at Politecnico di Milano by Luigi Dadda

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To the proposer’s knowledge, is this achievement subject to litigation?

Is the achievement you are proposing more than 25 years old? Yes

Is the achievement you are proposing within IEEE’s designated fields as defined by IEEE Bylaw I-104.11, namely: Engineering, Computer Sciences and Information Technology, Physical Sciences, Biological and Medical Sciences, Mathematics, Technical Communications, Education, Management, and Law and Policy. Yes

Did the achievement provide a meaningful benefit for humanity? Yes

Was it of at least regional importance? Yes

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to pay for the milestone plaque(s)? Yes

Has the IEEE Section(s) in which the plaque(s) will be located agreed to arrange the dedication ceremony? Yes

Has the IEEE Section in which the milestone is located agreed to take responsibility for the plaque after it is dedicated? Yes

Has the owner of the site agreed to have it designated as an IEEE Milestone? Yes

Year or range of years in which the achievement occurred:


Title of the proposed milestone:

Activation of the CRC102A computer at Politecnico di Milano by Luigi Dadda, 1954

Plaque citation summarizing the achievement and its significance:

In September 1954, the CRC102A digital computer was activated and operated in this University, under the direction of prof. Luigi Dadda, Life Fellow of IEEE (Lodi, 29/04/1923– Milano, 26/10/2012). The CRC102A was the first operating fully electronic digital computer in continental Europe. (alt: "one of the first fully electronic digital computers" or "the first ... in a university in continental Europe" if this is deemed to be difficult to prove)

200-250 word abstract describing the significance of the technical achievement being proposed, the person(s) involved, historical context, humanitarian and social impact, as well as any possible controversies the advocate might need to review.

IEEE technical societies and technical councils within whose fields of interest the Milestone proposal resides.

In what IEEE section(s) does it reside?


IEEE Organizational Unit(s) which have agreed to sponsor the Milestone:

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) paying for milestone plaque(s):

Unit: Italy Section
Senior Officer Name: Dario Petri, Chair

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) arranging the dedication ceremony:

Unit: Italy Section
Senior Officer Name: Dario Petri, Chair

Unit: C16 Italy Chapter
Senior Officer Name: Sabrina de Capitani di Vimercati

IEEE section(s) monitoring the plaque(s):

IEEE Section: Italy
IEEE Section Chair name: Dario Petri

Milestone proposer(s):

Proposer name: Stefano Zanero
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Please note: your email address and contact information will be masked on the website for privacy reasons. Only IEEE History Center Staff will be able to view the email address.

Street address(es) and GPS coordinates in decimal form of the intended milestone plaque site(s):

Politecnico di Milano Dipartimento di Elettronica, Informazione e Bioingegneria Via Ponzio 34/5 Milano, Italy

Describe briefly the intended site(s) of the milestone plaque(s). The intended site(s) must have a direct connection with the achievement (e.g. where developed, invented, tested, demonstrated, installed, or operated, etc.). A museum where a device or example of the technology is displayed, or the university where the inventor studied, are not, in themselves, sufficient connection for a milestone plaque.

Please give the address(es) of the plaque site(s) (GPS coordinates if you have them). Also please give the details of the mounting, i.e. on the outside of the building, in the ground floor entrance hall, on a plinth on the grounds, etc. If visitors to the plaque site will need to go through security, or make an appointment, please give the contact information visitors will need. If possible, we will place the plaque both on the original location of the machine (which is now a teaching building), and a more visible one in the highly visible display room where the original machine is currently exhibited.

Are the original buildings extant?

Yes, even if they have been remodeled over the years.

Details of the plaque mounting:

In the original building it might be placed in the entrance hall. The current display is located in the main entrance of the DEIB department, a highly visible location.

How is the site protected/secured, and in what ways is it accessible to the public?

Both locations are publicly accessible during the opening hours of the campus (usually 8.30am-9pm daily except on Sundays and holidays).

Who is the present owner of the site(s)?

Politecnico di Milano owns both buildings.

What is the historical significance of the work (its technological, scientific, or social importance)? If personal names are included in citation, include justification here. (see section 6 of Milestone Guidelines)

Luigi Dadda was one of the first researchers on modern computers in Italy. In 1953 Politecnico di Milano requested funding for a digital computer under the Marshall Plan (the request was made by its rector at the time, Prof. Cassinis). A grant of 120.000USD was received, and Dadda recommended the type of machine to be bought, and joined the design team at the Computer Research Corporation of San Diego to build it, since the machine, a Computer Research Company model CRC 102A, would not be maintained by the vendor after delivery to Italy.

The machine reached Politecnico di Milano in September 1954, where it was activated in the 2SUD back room, and became the first working digital computer in Italy, and Politecnico became the first university equipped with a digital computer in continental Europe.

In the following years, the research activity of Dadda focused on the use of the machine for scientific and industrial applications, and training researchers and students of the Politecnico in Computer Science, where he created and taught the first courses on the subject.

Notably, he studied how to enhance the ALUs of the machines, proposing solutions such as the Dadda multiplier, which significantly enhanced performance of those circuits (1963).

From this kernel, the Computing Center and afterwards the whole modern "Dipartimento di Elettronica, Informazione e Bioingegneria" were born.

What obstacles (technical, political, geographic) needed to be overcome?

Obviously, Italy in 1953 was still coping with post-war reconstruction, and its economy was just starting to pick up again. Investing 120.000USD of the time in a forward looking acquisition such as a digital computer was a significant decision for the then-rector of Politecnico.

Logistical obstacles were also non-marginal. The machine was shipped to Italy on an old Liberty merchant ship along with the precious machine, packed in cotton balls in order to protect its valves from dangerous vibrations.

A funny remark prof. Dadda used to make is that upon disembarkation in Genoa, the machine was declared with customs as an "electrical appliance", as the only computer machine in the taxonomy of goods used at the time was a "punchcard machine", but a punched card reader was not supplied with the computer, so it didn't fit the category. An additional problem was that, at the time, Italy's taxation imposed the application of a small paper slip similar to a stamp (proving payment of duties) on each and every valve used in the machine. Since dismantling the machine to apply the slips was evidently impossibly, the customs allowed Dadda to just pay the tax, and gave him a pack of slips to apply on the machine "as soon as possible". Those slips remained in a drawer in Dadda's desk.

What features set this work apart from similar achievements?

The machine was the focal point of technical developments in computational methods for the booming Italian industry of post-war reconstruction, helping design products for Pirelli and Edison (including large dams and power stations).

Concurrently, the presence of the machine kickstarted a series of technical achievements (such as the invention of the Dadda multiplier) of worldwide significance, and was the kernel of the development of one of the largest research departments in the IEEE fields of interest in Europe.

Supporting texts and citations to establish the dates, location, and importance of the achievement: Minimum of five (5), but as many as needed to support the milestone, such as patents, contemporary newspaper articles, journal articles, or chapters in scholarly books. 'Scholarly' is defined as peer-reviewed, with references, and published. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. At least one of the references must be from a scholarly book or journal article. All supporting materials must be in English, or accompanied by an English translation.

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Please email a jpeg or PDF a letter in English, or with English translation, from the site owner(s) giving permission to place IEEE milestone plaque on the property, and a letter (or forwarded email) from the appropriate Section Chair supporting the Milestone application to with the subject line "Attention: Milestone Administrator." Note that there are multiple texts of the letter depending on whether an IEEE organizational unit other than the section will be paying for the plaque(s).

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