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Clearwater graduate helped create computer

Published Sep. 4, 2005

Headlines through the years

A look back at the events, people and places that made North Pinellas the unique place that it is. The information is compiled from past editions of the St. Petersburg Times.

Nov. 18, 1953

A 1941 graduate of Clearwater High School has been revealed as one of six electrical engineers who developed the Florida Automatic Computer, better known as FLAC, which is now being used at Patrick Air Force Base in Cocoa in guided missile tests.

The young man is Thomas G. Holmes, 30, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Holmes, 407 Pennsylvania Ave. He will be home for the Thanksgiving holidays.

Upon graduation Holmes went with the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics. Later he served in the war for two years, stationed at Langley Field and in the South Pacific. After the war he entered the University of California, specializing in electrical engineering and electronics.

He graduated in 1950 and has been at Patrick Field for some time.

The computer designed by Holmes and five other engineers operates at a rate equivalent to that of 50,000 girls and solves problems in accordance with pre-established instructions fed into the machine by an operator on tape. It is not an electric brain.

Formerly, Patrick Air Base sent data to Washington to be computed on machines at the Bureau of Standards but now all computations are carried on at the base.

Difficult problems fed into the machine are answered on tape coming through another machine in three to five seconds.

Nov. 8, 1961

Ancient rites to mark dedication

CLEARWATER _ The developers of Horizon House Apartments, the highest residential building on the Suncoast, will propitiate the gods in an ancient ceremony to be performed Thursday.

The topping ceremony, which originated hundreds of years ago, involved the placing of a sheaf of wheat on the ridge pole of the building following completion. According to ancient superstition, the offering pleased the gods and prevented destruction of the building by acts of nature.

In the Horizon House ceremony, which will begin at 4 p.m., the Florida touch will be brought to the rite by use of an orange tree in place of the sheaf of wheat.

Speaker at the ceremony will be state Sen. C.W. Bill Young, who will start the tree on its trip up the building. The tree will be lighted and will remain atop the building until Nov. 13.

Nov. 4, 1953

Private phone lines to be provided

CLEARWATER _ The completion of the new telephone exchange sometime in July will provide private lines for the majority of Peninsular Telephone Co.'s customers, the company's local manager reported yesterday.

According to manager S.C. Edmunds, the new $275,000 building under construction at Betty Lane and Cleveland Street will begin operation with 6,000 lines. This can be expanded to 20,000. At the present time 4,000 crowded lines are in use.

To further relieve the overburdened exchange, Edmunds announced plans for an 800-line exchange building for Largo. This will go up upon the completion of the Clearwater building.

A new exchange in Dunedin was completed two years ago which gave most of north Dunedin private line service. Additional expansion is being planned to relieve crowded lines in the southern section.

Nov. 29, 1929

Bus could bring mail to air mail line

CLEARWATER _ Clearwater post office may dispatch mail by bus to St. Petersburg to make connections with the air mail line which begins operation here Dec. 14, according to plans being made by Postmaster Charles Lee of Clearwater.

Lee announced Thursday that he will petition government officials to allow transportation of mail to St. Petersburg by bus to meet the planes, pointing out that the establishment of such service would mean much to Clearwater. Lee plans to confer with St. Petersburg Postmaster R.M. Hall next week on the proposition.

_ Theresa Blackwell compiles the history column. She can be reached at (727) 445-4229 or