Greed is good R&D Spending

Carrol Cox cbcox at
Wed Jun 10 10:41:14 PDT 1998

Doug writes:

> The NSF's series begins in 1955. Between 1955 and 1996, federal R&D
> spending totaled $2.3 trillion in 1996 dollars, an average of 1.3% of GDP
> over the period. Of course, $2.3t sounds a lot more impressive than 1.3% of
> GDP, if you're looking for a gee-whiz figure.

The actual is probably much greater but concealed under other headings. When I was in the Air Force and attached to NSA we made a great deal of use of a clumsy old room-size computer that broke down (a tube burned out) twice a week called Demon. IBM had sold it to NSA at "cost": $300,000.00 (which was in itself a great deal in 1952 dollars). They got their "profit" out of the research that went in to designing the machine. In other words, NSA (the communications intelligence agency, up until 1952 called the Armed Forces Security Agency) paid for most of the R&D which made IBM the powerhouse it was in computing for several decades. IBM graciously consented not to take a profit from NSA off the research NSA paid for.


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