BULL computers chronological history


Origins of Bull.

From Norway to Switzerland (1919-1931)

Fredrik Bull was an employee of Storebrand, a Norwegian insurance company, and had ideas to use card punch equipment to solve its company's problems. He designed equipments more integrated that those offered by Hollerith (later IBM) and took patents that were acquired by  the Belgian entrepreneur Emile Genon and the Swiss company HW Egli. After his death, his succession was handled by Knut-Andreas Knutsen who had been a key person in the creation of Machines Bull.

23 Jun 1919
Fredrik Rosen Bull (born in 1882) proposes to Storebrand, an accident insurance company from Oslo, then Christiana,  Norway, to build a punched card machine. at the cost of 20,000 NKr

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31 Jul 1919 First Norwegian patent filed by Fr.R.Bull for a punched card combined machine able to record, add and sort data.
25 Jan 1921 The first machine is subcontracted to Ormestad, a Norwegian precision machinery company that delivers it in Aug 1921
Aug 1921 Fr.R.Bull signs a contract with Reidar Knutsen (and the company OKA) for manufacturing and marketing the punched card machine.
Nov 1921 The Danish insurance company Hafnia orders one combined machine, but would prefer separate sorters and adders
Jan 1922 The first machine is operational at Storebrand (until 1926)
Jun 1922 Fr R Bull leaves Storebrand to head the engineering at OKA
Sep 1922 Delivery to Hafnia, followed in March and July 1923 by the separate adder and sorter and the replacement of Hollerith machines.
1 Oct 1923 Patent n°101723 filed in Switzerland for a tabulator
7 Jan 1924 Patent n°26588 filed in Switzerland for a sorter
1 Jan 1925 Knut-Andreas Knutsen replaces Fr R Bull, dying from cancer (death on 7 Jun 1925 at 43). The patents of Fr R Bull become property of a Consortium headed by Reinar Knutsen


1927 Unfruitful  negotiation with Powers, the second world manufacturer of punched card equipments
Oct 1927 Emile Genon, a Belgian reseller of Elliott-Fisher and Underwood calculators,  buys the manufacturing and sales rights of Bull's consortium (except for Scandinavia)
Feb 1928 Emile Genon resells the manufacturing rights to the Swiss company H.W. Egli
Mar 1929 Design of an horizontal sorter by K.A.Knutsen (manufactured by Ormestad for Hafnia)
Dec 1929 The first Swiss manufactured machine is shipped to Sandoz Laboratories
4 Jun 1930 patent filed by KA Knutsen for a printing feature on the tabulator
Jul 1930 Bull AG, a Zürich based company, is established by Emile Genon for international sales . Distributors are established in France (ATEIC) and Belgium.(SOMECA)
Oct 1930 KA Knutsen is offered the charge of head of engineering at Egli, but he preferred to settle in France. France offers a larger market and enjoys lower costs than Switzerland.


Settlement in France. 1931-1933

9 Mar 1931 Establishment in Paris 92bis avenue Gambetta of the H.W.Egli Bull company co-founded by H.W Egli, Henri Vindevoghel (bringing the avenue Gambetta workshop of ATEMETA) and Bull AG. The manufacturing is split between Oslo, Paris and Zürich. International marketing is still Bull AG. The customers base includes  6 from Norway, 3 from Denmark, 2 from Finland and 2 from Switzerland.
The president of H.W.Egli Bull is Albert Auguste Huguenin.
Sep 1931 Introduction of the first rotating numeric printer (120lpm)  from the patents of KA Knutsen
Oct 1931 Proposal by Georges Vieillard and Elie Doury to HW Egli to buy some of their stock of HW Egli Bull in the name of a syndicate of French users. This offer is opposed to a take-over proposal by Remington Rand. Georges Vieillard obtains finally on 20 Dec 1931 the support of HW Egli's board.
The fact that a secret cross-license agreement existing since 1927 between Remington Rand and IBM infuriated Georges Vieillard and some members of the Board.
Dec 1931 First shipment to a French customer, the Social Security bureau of Ministère du Travail.
16 Apr 1932 Lt-Cel Rimailho becomes president of HW Egli-Bull
Emile Genon becomes vice-president and Georges Vieillard CFO. KA Knutsen remains in charge of engineering
Apr 1932 New shares emission for HW Egli. Jacques Callies (Papeteries Aussedat) named director in the Board (he will became responsible soon for papers and cards)
Apr 1932 Introduction of T30 tabulator with alphanumeric printing (separate alpha and numeric wheels)
24 Jan 1933 Georges Vieillard is named administrateur-délégué and chairman of the executive Board that includes Emile Genon, Jacques Callies and Mr. Schrimpf.
The board takes cost-cutting decisions (reduction of margins to distributors, cutting engineering expenses and reducing engineering improvements)

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Georges Vieillard




Revision : 29 avril 2002.