Naval Fire Control Computers in the 1950s

This US Navy training video at GENE SLOVERS US NAVY PAGES website shows how the 1950s mechanical fire control computers worked. It is explained simply enough for a layman to understand. I found it fascinating to watch. It is crazy to think that the ballistic software on my $199 iPod Touch can do nearly everything that this huge mechanical device did.

UPDATE: Part 2 can be watched online here. Thanks to Steve for the link.

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • DavidR

    Yes. I watched both videos yesterday. Amazing stuff. So used to microprocessors, it really is incredible how much can be accomplished with gears and cams.

    And technically, analog computers still hold the edge in processing speed. There is no CPU in the generation of analogue outputs. It’s instant.

  • Love me some analog

  • chris

    what’s the deal with rapid share?

    • chris, its a PITA. But I could not find any other source for the video. It is not on youtube.

  • Lance

    Yeah but if it wernt for those Giants back then we wouldnt have a microcomputers of today and we still be useing ancent optical devices on ships.

  • DavidR

    Here’s a 1944 navy manual with all this explained in greater detail (the illustrations are really good too)

    Seriously, were people just a whole lot smarter back then? The level of basic knowledge and understanding assumed by this manual seems fairly high.

  • DavidR

    oops,forgot the link! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • DavidR, thanks for the link.

  • MrSatyre

    I’m more impressed with the media player instructions below the video! When the heck was this site posted? 1995??? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Very cool videos, thanks for the links!

  • Steve-O!

    Here’s the link to the part 2 video on the site. Just had to do a little digging around.

    • Steve, thanks. I will update the blog post.

  • Whatever

    “And technically, analog computers still hold the edge in processing speed. There is no CPU in the generation of analogue outputs. Itโ€™s instant.”

    Analog computers have to move to calculate, meaning there is a limit to how fast they can calculate.

    Neat videos. I am glad this stuff doesn’t end up being lost.

  • Whatever

    One thing that I think is amazing to consider with all that mechanical gearing, especially the weird cam shapes is there were no computer controlled machines back then to make easy work of making those things. Someone had to figure out a purely mechanical way to accurately make those funny shapes.

    • Whatever, I LOVE the “3D” (2 input) cams. What a clever idea. I would never have thought that up.

  • Destroyer

    how the F did they do long division back then?

    • Destroyer, you didn’t watch the video did you ? ๐Ÿ˜‰ Pretty easily using gears.

  • Destroyer

    i didn’t. my dail up is too slow LOL. I imagine it being done mechanically. haha. but again, its not like whipping out my cellphone when the going gets tough.

    • Destroyer, lol, yea, not something that you can carrying in your pocket!

  • JJ

    The fire control computer videos you reference are hosted on Gene Sloverโ€™s US Navy Pages. He’s a 74 years young Navy veteran. We welcome visitors from your blog and encourage them to look at our over 4000 pages of indexed material covering all things Navy.

    We would, however, appreciate a credit on your blog and a link:

    Thank you for your consideration,


    PS As for instructions under the videos, we’re doing the best we can. Many of our visitors are elderly Navy veterans who are not as computer savvy as you. We did, however, figure out how to flash encode a 1950’s video and get it on the web, right? Could YOUR grandparents do it? Ease up guys.