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As World War II raged, the National Defense Research Council sponsored research into electronic systems for secure communications, code-breaking and measuring the velocity of cannon shells.

Systems engineer Robert E. Mumma helped build the military gear for the National Cash Register Co.'s Electronic Research Department. He tells how the secret work spawned early computers in an oral-history interview maintained at the Charles Babbage Institute Center for the History of Information Technology at the University of Minnesota.

The institute is busy gathering the raw material for histories of the information age, including federal government computing. It has posted about 160 interviews of computing pioneers at www.cbi.umn.edu/oh.

Founded in 1978, the institute is named after the British mathematics professor who, with Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, designed the first programmable computer'in the 1830s. The oral histories cover the birth of the Internet, software technology, and business computing.

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