Poli-USP celebrates 50 years of the first Brazilian computer

The first Brazilian computer will go on an exhibition tour (photo: Poli-USP publicity).

In July 1972, students and professors from the Polytechnic School of the University of São Paulo (Poli-USP) completed a project as unprecedented as it was daring: the construction of the first Brazilian computer, conceived, designed and built in Brazil. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the “Ugly Duckling”, as the computer was nicknamed, Poli-USP and the Foundation for Technological Development in Engineering (FDTE) are holding a series of events.

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On September 22, the hall of the Poli administration building, in the Cidade Universitária, in São Paulo (SP), received Poli professors and engineers who worked on the construction of Duckling Feio. They told how the pioneering computer served to increase teaching, research and the birth of the computer industry in Brazil.

The first Brazilian computer was built from scratch. It consists of a box about one meter long, with printed panels made of plastic and cardboard. It was capable of printing commands and recording codes with a memory of 4 kb, a capacity almost a million times smaller than a current mobile phone.

As explained by Lucas Moscato, project developer and retired professor at Poli-USP, at that time it was only possible to produce a small computer. “Nevertheless, Duckling was bigger than the computer used by NASA in the Apollo 11 expeditions to the moon,” he emphasizes.

The computer had no screens

The first computer produced on Brazilian soil did not have a screen. The codes were typed into the teletype and issued on perforated paper strips marked in binary language (0 and 1). Registered on paper after being processed by a computer, the code could be read several times by teletype to print the design or text the user wanted.

“Self-portrait” of computer Patinho Feio (photo: Poli-USP publicity).

Patinho Feio was the winner of the race that will be the first Brazilian computers. Professor Marcelo Schneck de Paula Pessôa, a member of the Board of Directors of the Vanzolini Foundation, says that at the time other initiatives were already underway, such as the Technological Institute for Aeronautics (ITA) project.

Besides him, there was also the “White Swan” project of the State University of Campinas (Unicamp). The name of the USP project – Patinho Feio – is even a provocation for Unicamp.

The inauguration of the machine, on July 24, 1972, had important presences: the governor of São Paulo at the time, Laudo Natel, the former dean of the USP, Miguel Reale, and the bishop Dom Ernesto de Paula.

Under the guidance of Professor Antônio Hélio Guerra Vieira, Patinho Feio served as the basis for the production of the G-10, the first commercial computer in the country, developed in partnership between Poli-USP, the Brazilian Navy and PUC-RJ (Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro). .January).

celebratory events

The event in Pola was the first among others to be held on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Patinha. At the initiative of the FDTE, there will be public exhibitions until July 2023. Between October 8 and November 6, the computer will be in the Sesc unit in Vila Mariana, in São Paulo. In November, it will be taken to Espaço USP Integração & Memória, which is located in the building of the University Rectorate. In the first half of next year, Pačić will be able to receive scheduled visits from elementary and high school students.

“We have two main goals when we publicly display Patinho Feio,” informs FDTE Operations Director José Roberto Castilho Piqueira. “One is mainly to show children and teenagers that the computer was not born as a laptop, tablet or mobile phone, but that in the last sixty, fifty years there has been a huge technological progress”.

The second, he explains, is to “show society and public authorities that investments in public universities return to the country.” Piqueira points out that “Patinho Feio was created with the budget of the Escola Politécnica and helped to form and develop the computer industry in Brazil, creating hundreds of companies and thousands of skilled jobs, generating billions of dollars for our economy. “.

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