Charles Babbage Institute: The Computing Industry in Minnesota > A-B
University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

Minnesota Computing Companies


Fabritek (established 1957)

Fabritek MOD 30+

Fabritek MOD 30+

Flame Industries (established 1959)

Flo-tronics, Inc. (established 1960)

Fourth Shift Corporation (established 1982)

Fourth Shift designs, develops, markets and supports fully integrated e-business enterprise applications for global manufacturing, distribution, customer relationships and financial management. They provide integrated services, creating unique solutions for business issues. 

With headquarters located at Two Meridian Crossings, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Fourth Shift has built upon its 18-year history of excellence established by its award-winning MRP product. Fourth Shift’s current product line is anchored by an e-ERP Backbone called Fourth Shift 7. The full suite of software includes Fourth Shift Customer Care, Fourth Shift Supplier Care, and Fourth Shift Employee Care. It is broad in functionality, internationalized and available in more than 17 languages. Fourth Shift runs on Novell NetWareTM and Windows NTTM. It runs on two databases - the TITANIUMTM database engine from Micro Data Base Systems, Inc. (mdbs), and Microsoft SQL ServerTM 7.0. 

Fourth Shift Corporation management

  • M. M. Stuckey, Chairman and CEO
  • Jim Caldwell, President and COO
  • David G. Latzke, Vice President and CFO
  • Randy B. Tofteland, Vice President and General Manager, Americas
  • John Wolfenden, Vice President and General Manager Fourth Shift Europe, Ltd.; 
  • David Gahn, Vice President andGgeneral Manager, Fourth Shift Asia.
  • Source:
    Fourth Shift Corporation company web site, October 2000

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    G. Bischoff Industries (established 1957; ceased in 1961)

    Founded in 1957, the company was renamed Data Management, Inc., on June 23, 1961.  See:  Data Management, Inc.

    GCI Systems (established 1988)

    General Magnetics (established 1959)

    General Magnetics was possibly subsumed by Fil-Nippon Machinery Supply Corporation, Manila, Philippines. Fil-Nippon is a distributor of General Magnetics Limited products. General Magnetics Limited manufactures and markets optical and magnetic media, compact discs, micro floppy diskettes, audio cassettes, telecommunications equipment and other related products. The group's operations are based in Malaysia, the United Kingdom, Thailand and Singapore.

    Wright Analysis company web site, October 2000 
    Fil-Nippon Machinery Supply Corporation company web site, October 2000

    General Mills Electronics Group (established 1961)

    General Mills Wiring and Chassis
    General Mills Wiring and Chassis

    During World War II, General Mills became involved in the production of naval gun sights, torpedo directors and other military equipment. The food giant continued this production after the war, when it produced 2,000 bomb sights for the U.S. Air Force's B47 bomber. The manufacture of other military equipment, as well as the bomb sight, developed into the Mechanical Division of the company. Approximately 1957, the company formally established a digital computer laboratory at its East Hennepin Ave. facility in Minneapolis. 

    June 28, 1957 the Mechanical Division was awarded a contract by the Engineer Research and Development Laboratories, Corps of Engineers, for the development of an Automatic Position Survey Equipment used to conduct first order astronomic surveys of the Earth's surface. It utilized a computer developed by General Mills known as the Automatic Position Survey Analyzer and Computer (APSAC). APSAC used a 512 word core memory (6-bit words). 

    March 14, 1960 General Mills announced a new computer, the General Mills' 2003, an all transistorized general purpose computer with a 4k core memory (36-bit word). Francis Alterman was manager of the digital computer laboratory. 

    June 1961 General Mills reorganized such operations under the Electronics Group, which included Electronic and Mechanical Defense Products, Balloon and Aerospace Systems, Automatic Handling Equipment and Research. Richard A. Wilson directed the operation of the Group. Subsidiaries of the Group included Magnaflux Corporation (Chicago), and the Daven Co. (with operation in NJ and NH). 

    October 1961 General Mills delivered the AD/ECS-37 computer to NASA for use in the Orbiting Astronomical Observatory Program. A different version, the AD/ECS-20, was used in a classified military program. 

    January 25, 1962 Richard A. Wilson announced a step-up on the company's computer production. Irving Cohen, formerly of Burroughs Corporation, was named manager of computer development; Richard Quinn was named assistant manager of the Computer Development Laboratory; and George Grayson was project manager of the AD/ECS-37.

    Upper Midwest Investor, (November 1961) 17-18.
    General Mills Corporation press releases. Computer Product Literature Collection (CBI 12), Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. 
    General Mills Corporation product literature. Computer Product Literature Collection (CBI 12), Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

    General Tabulating & Computing Systems, Inc. (established 1961)

    Hoover’s, Inc., On-line Business Network company web-site, October 2000

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    Honeywell, Inc. (established 1886)

    DPS-6 Packaged System Phase 1, 1980

    DPS-6 Packaged System Phase 1, 1980

    Honeywell can trace its roots back to 1885, when an inventor named Albert Butz patented the furnace regulator and alarm. He formed the Butz Thermo-Electric Regulator Company of Minneapolis, on April 23, 1886, and a few weeks later invented a simple, yet ingenious device that he called the "damper flapper."

    The Consolidated Temperature Controlling Company, Inc., acquired Butz's patents and business, and in 1893 renamed itself the Electric Heat Regulator Company. The first company ads ran in 1895 featuring the now famous thermostat. In 1898, the company was purchased by W. R. Sweatt.

    Meanwhile, in Wabash, Indiana, a young engineer named Mark Honeywell, was perfecting the heat generator as part of his plumbing and heating business. In 1906 he formed the Honeywell Heating Specialty Company, Inc., which specialized in hot water heat generators.

    By 1912, Sweatt had expanded EHR's product line and changed the company's name to Minneapolis Heat Regulator Company (MHR). Four years later, MHR patented the first electric motor approved by Underwriters Laboratories.

    In 1927, the Minneapolis Heat Regulator Company and the Honeywell Heating Specialty Company merged to form the Minneapolis-Honeywell Regulator Company.  W. R. Sweatt became chairman and Mark Honeywell, president. The company made several acquisitions in the controls area. One of those acquisitions was the Brown Instrument Company, a worldwide leader in the field of industrial controls and indicators, and inventor of the pyrometer.

    Minneapolis-Honeywell Regulator Company leveraged its scientific and engineering talent to transform itself and adapt to changing times. Mass production was perfected and an array of aeronautical equipment broadened the company's product portfolio. In 1942, the company invented the electronic autopilot (C-1), which proved to be critically important to the United States' war effort.

    In 1955, Datamatic Corporation, a joint venture with Raytheon Corporation, was established and marked Honeywell's entry into the computer business. The company's first computer system, the D-1000, weighed 25 tons, took up 6,000 square feet and cost $1.5 million. Raytheon's interest in the computer venture was bought out in 1960 and the business name changed to Electronic Data Processing (EDP).

    The company's name was officially changed to Honeywell, Inc., in 1963, even though it had been casually referred to as such for nearly 40 years. Six years later, Honeywell instruments helped United States astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin land on the moon.

    In 1970, Honeywell merged its computer business with General Electric's to form Honeywell Information Systems, which performed well in mainframe markets. In 1986, the personal computer emerged and the company formed Honeywell Bull, a global joint venture with Compagnie des Machines Bull of France and NEC Corporation of Japan. Its ownership level was gradually decreased until, in 1991, Honeywell was no longer in the computer business. 

    Honeywell, Inc., company web-site, September 2000.

    Hutchinson Technology, Inc. (established 1965)
    Hutchinson Technology, Inc., produces a majority of the worldwide supply of suspension assemblies for all sizes of disk drives produced by all the significant disk drive manufacturers. Suspension assemblies are very precise metal springs that hold the recording heads at microscopic distances above the disks in disk drives. The suspension is critical to the operation of the drive.

    In the early 1960's, Jeff Green was working as a technical writer at Univac. At that time, one of neighbors in his apartment building was Jon Geiss, an engineer for Minco Products. Geiss was working on an etching machine and asked Green to write a manual that would explain how to use it. So began the collaboration that would eventually lead to the formation of Hutchinson Technology.

    In 1965, Green and Geiss decided to start a company that would make heaters for gyroscopes used in rocket guidance systems. Both Green and Geiss were less than 25 years old, had very little money, no experience running a business and only a limited knowledge of fundamental photoetching technology. Total funding was only $30,000, and not all of that was in cash. The company started in Geiss's hometown because they could get a low cost building -- a chicken coop. Originally, the company was called Hutchinson Industrial Corporation; in the mid 1970s the name was changed to Hutchinson Technology.

    Green and Geiss quickly found out that their original idea of selling gyro heaters for missiles was not going to succeed; no one wanted to risk a multi-million dollar missile to save about $8 per heater. They started searching for other business and began selling primitive versions of the disk drive components the company makes today. By the end of the seventies, the company had focused its resources on the disk drive market.

    By the mid seventies the company had developed its fourth generation of photoetching equipment and was adding real tool and die abilities, and laser welding. In 1972, construction of the main building was started and by 1976 the new building had expanded enough to have all operations under one roof. 

    Hutchinson Technology, Inc., chronology 

    1965 Hutchinson Industrial Corporation founded

    1970s Name changed to Hutchinson Technology, Inc.

    1972 Construction of the main building was started.

    1976 New building allows all operations under one roof.

    1982 Geiss left the corporation; Green became the CEO; Wayne Fortun became President. 

    1985 Hutchinson Technology became a public company. 

    1988 Manufacturing operation in Sioux Falls, South Dakota was started. 

    1992 Vice President of the United States presented Hutchinson Technology, Inc., with the President's "E" Award in recognition of leadership in Asian markets.  Later in 1992, Hutchinson Technology, Inc. received the Minnesota Quality Award.

    1995 Opened its third manufacturing plant; a 159,772 square foot facility in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. 

    1996 The company moved its stamping operations and some of its logistics functions from Hutchinson to a 100,384 square foot building in Plymouth, Minnesota. 

    1997 Construction of the second photoetching plant in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, was completed.

    Hutchinson Technology, Inc., company web-site, September, 2000.

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    Intech, Inc. (established 1967)

    Circuit, 1972
    Circuit, 1972
    International Business Machines -- Rochester (established 1958)

    IBM 88 Collator

    IBM 88 Collator

    In 1958 International Business Machines opened a plant near Rochester, Minnesota for fabrication and assembly of punch card handling equipment used as components in its integrated data processing equipment. The original investment in this facility was estimated at $25 million and in 1960 employed nearly 2,000 persons.

    IBM Developments at Rochester

    1962 188 collator (first core storage), data collection systems (card based)

    1963 Data collection systems (core storage)

    1964 Card read/punch (mechanical)

    1965 IBM surgical monitoring system

    1966 Optical scanner (optical character reader)

    1967 High-speed data transmission terminal

    1968 Optical reader; optical page reader

    1969 Began plastics molding; GSD formed; tape terminal, card reader, optical reader; System/3 (monolithic system technology)

    1970 RPGII programming language developed

    Minnesota's Electronics and Related Science Industries (Minneapolis: Northwestern National Bank, 1960).

    International Timesharing Corporation (established 1967)

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    J3 Learning Corporation (established 1985; ceased 1996)

    Jeff Traynor was the chief financial officer of J3 Learning Corporation, from April 1994 to July 1996. J3 was acquired by Gartner Group in 1996.

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