Originally published in the Union College Magazine, Fall 2013
A special tapestry, bearing likenesses of SP95 computer chips, arrived at Union in honor of Paul Castrucci ’56 this spring.
Co-created by Castrucci in the mid-1960s at IBM, the SP95 was the world’s first 16-bit integrated circuit memory chip. The invention, which Castrucci developed with fellow IBM-ers Edward Grochowski, Frank Deverse, Gerald O’Rourke and Robert Collins, lead to an industry-wide paradigm shift.
Heralding the birth of the semiconductor industry as it is known today, the SP95 ushered in the use of integrated circuits, in which all elements – resistors, capacitors and diodes – exist on a single piece of silicon. Gone were the days of using magnetic core memories in computers.
The machine on which the tapestry was woven also has a connection to the evolution of computational technology. The Jacquard loom, invented in France in 1801, based its weave on patterns automatically read from punched wooden cards. Later that century, Herman Hollerith improved on the system, developing a card-reader to expedite the 1880 U.S. census. His machine read the pattern of punches on the census cards and automatically tabulated counts.
Hollerith went on to found the Tabulating Machine Company, which eventually became International Business Machines.
Castrucci, who retired in 1988 as manager of IMB’s plant in Essex Junction, Vt., is thrilled the tapestry has important ties to computational history, and that it’s found a home at Union.
“The tapestry represents the leading technology used in computers in 1965, and it’s still being used today. Where ever you have a memory chip, it’s based on the SP95,” Castrucci said. “And it couldn’t be hanging in a better place. The Wold building is a blending of science and art, which is exactly what this tapestry is.”
Displayed in the Wold Center, the tapestry was purchased by Schaffer Library from the Fleming Museum of Art at the University of Vermont. It commissioned the piece, 4-by-6 feet and made of wool, cotton and silver lurex, from Mainstreet Unlimited Rug Weavers.
Paul Castrucci passed away June 23, 2013, shortly after giving the interview for this story.