Emerac was the name of the computer in the 1957 classic movie, Desk Set
, starring Spencer Tracy
and Katherine Hepburn
. The story takes place in the research department
of a television network. Katherine Hepburn
is the brainy head of the department, and Spencer Tracy
is brought in to install a computer to replace the humans in the research department. Of course, there is friction
between the pair. The computer Emerac was the unsung star of the movie, though.
Emerac is a classic retro monster mainframe computer, with huge banks of blinking lights. Output is via a printer (no monitor, of course). Input is via a keyboard, and they are able to ask it wonderful natural language questions like "What is the annual economic loss of timber from the bolivian wood beetle?" There is a switch on the front panel that inexplicably causes Emerac to go into convulsions and spit out punch cards. The computer (prop) for the movie was custom built by IBM, who should have known better.