Sperry Corporation

From Academic Kids

Sperry Corporation was a major American equipment and electronics company whose existence spanned more than seven decades of the twentieth century.

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Early history

The company was founded in 1910 as the Sperry Gyroscope Company by Elmer Ambrose Sperry to manufacture navigation equipment, chiefly his own inventions – the marine gyrostabilizer and the gyrocompass. During World War I the company diversified into aircraft components including bomb sights and fire control systems.

In 1918 Lawrence Sperry split 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 II as military demand skyrocketed; it specialised in high technology devices such as analog computer-controlled bomb sights, airborne radar systems, and automated take off and landing systems. Postwar, the company expanded its interests in electronics and computing, producing the company's first digital computer, SPEEDAC, in 1953.

Sperry Rand

In 1955 Sperry acquired Remington Rand and renamed itself Sperry Rand. Acquiring Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation and Engineering Research Associates along 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 antitrust lawsuit with Honeywell, Inc.

In 1978 Sperry Rand decided to concentrate on its computing interests and a number of divisions including Remington Rand Systems, Remington Rand Machines, Ford Instrument Company, Sperry Aerospace and Sperry Vickers were sold. The company dropped "Rand" from its title and reverted back to Sperry Corporation. In the 1970s, Sperry Corporation was an old-school conglomerate, 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.) Sperry bought out and continued the RCA line of electronic digital computers: architectural cousins to the IBM System/360.

Merger

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 Corporation to become Unisys. The takeover came about even after Sperry Rand 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, Sperry Gyroscope, Sperry Vickers, Sperry Marine and Sperry Flight Systems were sold off after the merger. The name Sperry lives on in the company Sperry Marine, headquartered in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA. 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 Grumman Corporation. It is a worldwide supplier of navigation, communication, information and automation systems for commercial marine and naval markets.

See also

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