- Sperry Corporation
Sperry Corporation (1910-1986) was a major American equipment and
electronicscompany whose existence spanned more than seven decades of the twentieth century. Through a series of mergers they exist today as a portion of Unisys. Some of its erstwhile divisions became part of Honeywell.
The company was founded in 1910 as the Sperry Gyroscope Company by
Elmer Ambrose Sperryto manufacture navigation equipment, chiefly his own inventions – the marine gyrostabilizerand the gyrocompass. During World War Ithe company diversified into aircraft components including bomb sights and fire control systems. In their early decades, Sperry Gyroscope and related companies were concentrated on Long Island, New York, especially in Nassau County. Over the years, it diversified to other locations.
Lawrence Sperrysplit from his father to compete over aero-instruments with the "Lawrence Sperry Aircraft Company", including the new automatic pilot. In 1924 following the death of Lawrence on December 13, 1923, the two firms were brought together. The company became Sperry Corporation in 1933. The new corporation was a holding company for a number of smaller entities such as the original Sperry Gyroscope, "Ford Instrument Company", "Intercontinental Aviation, Inc.", and others.
The company did very well during
World War IIas military demand skyrocketed; it specialized in high technology devices such as analog computer-controlled bomb sights, airborne radarsystems, and automated take off and landing systems. Sperry also was the creator of the infamous Ball TurretGun that was mounted under the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortressand the Consolidated B-24 Liberator, as commemorated by the films "Memphis Belle" and the poem " The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner". Postwar, the company expanded its interests in electronics and computing, producing the company's first digital computer, SPEEDAC, in 1953.
During the 1950s, a large part of Sperry Gyroscope was moved to
Phoenix, Arizonaand soon thereafter became the Sperry Flight SystemsCompany. This was to try to preserve parts of this vital defense company in the event of a thermonuclearconflagration. Yet the Gyroscope division remained headquartered on New York -- in its massive Lake Success, Long Island plant (which also served as United Nations headquartersbefore 1952) -- into the 1980s.
In 1955 Sperry acquired
Remington Randand renamed itself Sperry Rand. Acquiring then Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporationand Engineering Research Associatesalong with Remington Rand, the company developed the successful UNIVAC computer series and signed a valuable cross-licensing deal with IBM. The company remained a major military contractor. From 1967 to 1973 the corporation was involved in an acrimonious antitrustlawsuit with Honeywell, Inc.
In 1978 Sperry Rand decided to concentrate on its computing interests, and sold a number of divisions including Remington Rand Systems, Remington Rand Machines, Ford Instrument Company and Sperry Vickers. The company dropped "Rand" from its title and reverted to Sperry Corporation. In the 1970s, Sperry Corporation was an old-school conglomerate headquartered in the Sperry Rand Building at 1290 Avenue of Americas in Manhattan, selling typewriters (Sperry Remington), office equipment, electronic digital computers for business and the military (Sperry Univac), farm equipment (Sperry New Holland), avionics (e.g. gyroscopes, radars, Air Route Traffic Control equipment) (Sperry Vickers/Sperry Aerospace), and consumer products (electric razors) (Sperry Remington.) In addition, Sperry Systems Management (headquartered near New York City with an office at
Long Island MacArthur Airport) did a fair amount of government defense contracting. Sperry bought out and continued the RCA line of electronic digital computers: architectural cousins to the IBM System/360. In 1983 Sperry sold Vickers to Libbey-Owens-Ford Company (later to be renamed TRINOVA Corporation and subsequently Aeroquip-Vickers).
In 1986, after the success of a second hostile takeover bid engineered by Burroughs' CEO and ex-Treasurer of the U.S., Michael Blumenthal, and approved by then-President
Ronald Reagan, Sperry Corporation merged with Burroughs Corporationto become Unisys. The takeover came about even after Sperry used a " poison pill" in the form of a major share price hike to dissuade the hostile bid, as a result of which Burroughs had to borrow much more from the banks than was anticipated in order to complete the bid.
Certain internal divisions of Sperry such as Sperry New Holland and Sperry Marine were sold off after the merger. Also sold to
Honeywell, were Sperry Defense Systems and Sperry Flight Systems -- the two units whose functions were originally at the heart of the venerable Sperry Gyroscope division.
The name Sperry lives on in the company Sperry Marine, headquartered in
Charlottesville, Virginia. This company, formed in 1997 from three well-known brand names in the marine industry - Sperry Marine, Decca, and C. Plath, is now part of Northrop GrummanCorporation. It is a worldwide supplier of navigation, communication, information and automation systems for commercial marine and naval markets.
* [http://www.history.navy.mil/download/ww1-10.pdf Pearson, Lee: "Developing the Flying Bomb"]
*Fahrney, Delmer S. (RAdm ret): "History of Radio-Controlled Aircraft and Guided Missiles"
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