November 17, 1921-December 10, 2012
Resident of Soquel
Erwin Tomash, computer industry pioneer, dies at 91.
Erwin Tomash, founder of Dataproducts Corporation and The Charles Babbage Institute, was influential in creating the discipline of the history of computer sciences. He was among the first who envisioned the commercial potential of computers and was a pioneer in the industry that grew up around the new technology.
He died at his home in Soquel, CA, on December 10, 2012. His wife of 69 years, Adelle Ruben Tomash, and his two daughters were with him.
The son of Russian Jewish immigrants, he was born in St. Paul, MN, on November 17, 1921. He studied electrical engineering at the University of Minnesota before serving in the Army Signal Corps during World War II. After the war he worked at Engineering Research Associates, a seminal computer company, while earning a Masters of Science degree at the University of Maryland.
As a young engineer at ERA in 1950 he was responsible for the central control system of the 1103 computer designed for the Navy. Tomash proposed that the machine could be modified to suit a commercial market, which it was subsequently with great success.
Beginning in 1956 he led Telemeter Magnetics, one of the first entrants into the core memory industry, which made data storage affordable to business for the first time. In 1959 he took the company public.
In 1962 Tomash founded Dataproducts Corporation, which became the world's largest manufacturer of letter quality high-speed printers. Under his leadership Dataproducts grew into a publicly held Fortune 500 Company. Informatics and Data Card were innovative subsidiaries.
Even before his retirement in 1980, Tomash began reflecting on the meaning of the information revolution and its impact on society. He established Tomash Publishers to reprint classic computer-related books and initiated a project to collect oral histories from computer industry pioneers and scientists. He envisioned an institution dedicated to researching and preserving the history of computing. In 1979, with the support of other computer luminaries, he founded and endowed the Charles Babbage Institute now housed at the University of Minnesota.
His personal passion became research into the early source material of the science of computing. He created the world's most extensive collection of rare books in this field, including volumes from all areas of scientific and mathematical thinking and invention. A catalog of the Erwin Tomash Library is now available online.
Tomash worked on the boards of several non-profit organizations, including the Coro Foundation, and mentored many start-up non-profit and for-profit entrepreneurs. He was appreciated in the industry and among family and friends for his integrity, keen intellect, entrepreneurial spirit, generous heart, and visionary mind.
He is survived by his wife, daughters, three grandsons, and five great-grandchildren.
Published in Santa Cruz Sentinel on Dec. 20, 2012