Numerical Control Makes a Splash—at the 1960 Machine Tool Show

Today, it’s difficult to imagine manufacturing without the aid of computers.


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Today, it’s difficult to imagine manufacturing without the aid of computers. In 1960, it was the other way around. Machinists and shop owners were astonished to see how computers could control the motions of a machine tool. Numerical control was still in its infancy, but its potential to change the face of manufacturing was apparent, at least to some industry observers.

Highlights of the 1960 show are reported by today’s show sponsor:

“With the computer revolution in its early stages, numerical control was a hot topic as the Machine Tool Exposition-1960, scheduled for September 6-16, approached. As described at the time, it involved adapting the principle of the electronic computer to design machines to respond to instructions coded in number form on punched or magnetic tape and transmitted electronically to servo-mechanisms that operate the machine tool.

“According to a metalworking report, ‘Some say it will be a numerical control show. Only five years ago, at the 1955 Machine Tool Show, a few numerically controlled machines piqued the interest of all visitors. The years since then have been filled with its excitement. This year, you’ll see the fulfillment of builders’ plans to develop the numerically controlled equipment needed to improve industry-wide, metalworking’s production efficiency.’

“Alan C. Mattison, president of the National Machine Tool Builders Association (now AMT-the Association For Manufacturing Technology), sponsor of the exposition, emphasized the importance of automatic control of machines. ‘This is a basic development, for it changes the whole concept of present-day production … Rate of production and accuracy are being built into the machine itself.’ ”