This Day In Information: Elections and the Media

Today in 1952, Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected U.S. President, taking over 55% of the popular vote and winning 39 of the 48 states. It was the first time two of the major television networks used computers to predict the election results.

“The radio and TV networks hope to end the suspense as quickly as possible on election night …. CBS has arranged to use Univac, an all-electronic automatic computer known familiarly as the “Giant Brain.” Because it is too big (25,000 lbs.) to be moved to Manhattan, CBS will train a TV camera on the machine at Remington Rand’s offices in Philadelphia …. NBC has its own smaller electronic brain … Monrobot …. Says ABC’s News Director John Madigan, professing a disdain for such electronic gimmicks: “We’ll report our results through Elmer Davis, John Daly, Walter Winchell, Drew Pearson—and about 20 other human brains.” –“Univac & Monrobot,” Time Magazine, October 27, 1952.

“When CBS hired a newly minted Univac to analyze the vote in the 1952 presidential election, network officials thought it a nifty publicity stunt. But when the printout appeared, an embarrassed Charles Collingwood reported that the machine couldn’t make up its mind. It was not until after midnight that CBS confessed the truth: Univac had correctly predicted Dwight Eisenhower would swamp Adlai Stevenson in one of the biggest landslides in history, but nobody believed it.” –Philip Elmer-De Witt, “Television Machines That Think,” Time Magazine, April 6, 1992

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1 Response to This Day In Information: Elections and the Media

  1. Pingback: The Uses of Computers, 1937-Future | The Story of Information

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