Minivac 601

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Minivac 601
Minivac 601.jpg
DeveloperClaude Shannon
ManufacturerScientific Development Corporation (Cambridge, Massachusetts, later in Watertown, Massachusetts)
Release datec.1961
Introductory priceUS$85 (equivalent to $770.77 in 2021)
Memory6 bits
Storage6 bits
Display6 indicator lamps, 16-position motorized dial
Input6 slide switches, 6 pushbutton switches, 16-position motorized dial
Power110 VAC
Dimensions5 1/8 x 24 x 13 1/4 in.[1]
Mass9 kilograms (20 lb)

Minivac 601 Digital Computer Kit was an electromechanical digital computer system created by information theory pioneer Claude Shannon as an educational toy using digital circuits.[2]


In 1961, the system was sold by Scientific Development Corporation's "Consumer Products Division",[2] which was soon renamed as the "Digital Equipment Division".[3] The Minivac 601 was originally housed in a blue-painted wooden case. It used DPDT electrical relays as logic switches and for temporary data storage. The main board had a six-bit binary input/output array, consisting of simple DPDT slide switches, SPDT pushbutton switches, and indicator lights. A 16-position motorized dial rotary switch could be used to input decimal or hexadecimal numbers, to output numbers, or to act as a clock signal generator.

The components could be interconnected by manually inserting jumper wires fitted with tapered pin connectors into sockets on the main circuit board. The combined components just barely allowed the simple computer to play a winning game of Tic-Tac-Toe, or to simulate a simple elevator control system.

An "advanced and improved" version called the Minivac 6010 was released in early 1962, housed in a gray metal case and featuring higher-quality components.[4] It was supplied with additional patch cords incorporating special resistors, capacitors, and diodes for further capabilities.[which?][4] Although the price was also increased considerably, the system was more successfully sold to the corporate market, rather than as a toy.[5]

In 1962, the Scientific Development Corporation also advertised educational electronic kits based on analog electronics technology.[6]



  1. ^ MINIVAC 601 Computer History Museum, "Description: This item comprises two pieces: A: Main unit B: Bag of jumper cables Produced by SDC Corporation, Watertown, MA. Operates from 110VAC. Object consists of: minivac, original cardboard box, 3 bags of jumper cables, 6 electrolitic [sic] capacitors..."
  2. ^ a b Advertisement: Minivac 601, Page 33, 1961-10, Popular Science
  3. ^ Advertisement: Minivac 601, Page 31, 1961-11, Popular Science
  4. ^ a b "Minivac 6010". Old Computer Museum. Retrieved 2016-05-01.
  5. ^ Price and Perceived Value Archived 2016-04-08 at the Wayback Machine Chapter 3, Page 11, Marketing That Works: How Entrepreneurial Marketing Can Add Sustainable Value to Any Sized Company, By Leonard M. Lodish; Howard L. Morgan; Shellye Archambeau, ISBN 978-0-13-239075-0, "...the entrepreneur's line was the ...MINIVAC one in the third segment, the corporate sector, bought the product...the corporate types was: "Oh, that—it's just a toy!" The entrepreneur was creative and he listened carefully. He also understood marketing. His next product was the same basic kit—with the switches upgraded to higher tolerances and the machine color changed from blue and red to gunmetal gray. The name was changed to the MINIVAC 6010 and he increased the price from $79.95 to $479. The MINIVAC 6010 sold very well to the corporate segment at $479..."
  6. ^ Advertisement: Basic Communications Kits, Page 16, 1962-06, Popular Science

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