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Bob's Mainframe Computer Site

Home | Site Purpose | Early Computers | IBM Computers | Other Players | General Electric | Honeywell | IBM System/360 | Computing's Golden Age | Link and Learn | Acknowledgements

Ouch! There's a "Big Blue" Elephant in my Living Room!

The picture shown below depicts the IBM 7030, also known as Stretch, was IBM's first attempt at building a supercomputer. The first 7030 was delivered to Los Alamos in 1961.
 
The IBM 7030 Stretch project pioneered advances in many key computer technologies, including core memory, transistor circuit design, and circuit packaging. For the first time, many architectural tradeoffs were determined through the extensive use of a simulator.  The first systems were shipped in 1961. The following were Stretch buyers: Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, U.S. National Security Agency,  Lawrence Radiation Laboratory,  Atomic Weapons Research Establishment, Mitre Corporation, Naval Proving Ground, IBM, and the French Atomic Energy Commission.  Each system sold for approximately $7 million (in today's dollars approximately $44 million).

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IBM 730 Stretch Computer - LINK

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IBM 650 Computer - LINK

The IBM 650 was one of IBM’s early computers, and the world’s first mass-produced computer. Announced in 1953 over 2000 systems were produced between 1954 and 1962.  The 650 was specifically designed for users of existing IBM unit record equipment (electro-mechanical punched card-processing machines) upgrading from so-called Calculating Punches, like the IBM 604 model, to computers proper.
 
The IBM 650 is unique in computer history, the earliest ancestor of the personal computer. It's original average cost was about $500,000 (over $3,500,000 in today's dollars).

Shown below, the IBM System/3 was a low-end business computer introduced in the early 1970s and aimed at new customers and organizations that still used IBM 1400 series computers or unit record equipment. It featured a new punch card format that was smaller and stored 96 characters. Instead of the rectangular punches in the classic IBM card, the new cards had tiny (1 mm), circular holes much like paper tape. Data was stored in six-bit binary-coded decimal code, with three rows of 32 characters each, or 8-bit EBCDIC, with the two extra holes located in the top rows. IBM System/370s with a proper card reader could also process the new cards.

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IBM System 3 Mini Computer - LINK

Shown below, the IBM System/360 (S/360) was a mainframe computer system. Announced in 1964, it heralded the arrival of a family of computers, i.e.; an entire line of computers (or CPUs) from small to large, low to high performance, all running the same command set (with two exceptions for specific markets).
 
This allowed customers to start with a lower cost model and then upgrade to larger systems as their needs grew — without the time and expense of rewriting software. Many models (e.g. the 360/30) even offered the option of microcode emulation of the customer's previous computer (e.g. the IBM 1401 so that old programs could run on the new machine.
 
IBM initially announced a family of six computers, Models 30, 40, 50, 60, 62, and 70  and forty common peripherals. IBM actually delivered fourteen models. The cheapest model was the 360/20 with 24K of core memory, only half the registers of other models. 

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IBM 360/30 Computer - LINK

Shown below, the IBM 1130 Computing System was introduced in 1965. It was IBM's least-expensive computer to date, and was aimed at price-sensitive, computing-intensive technical markets like education and engineering. The IBM 1800 was a process control variant of the 1130 with two extra instructions (CMP and DCM) and extra I/O capabilities.
 
  The 1130 became quite popular, and the 1130 and its non-IBM clones gave many people their first feel of "personal computing." Though its price-performance ratio was good and it notably included inexpensive disk storage, it otherwise broke no new ground technically. The 1130 holds a place in computing history primarily because of the fondness its former users hold for it.

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IBM 1130 Mini Computer - LINK

Shown below, the IBM 1401 was a variable wordlength decimal computer that was  marketed as an inexpensive "Business Computer".  At peak, there were over 10,000 installed systems running in the mid-1960s. The IBM 1401 was withdrawn in February 1971. During its lifetime about 20,000 total systems were manufactured, making the IBM 1401 one of IBM's most successful products.  
 
IBM's John Haanstra, supported larger series 1400 models, but  the 1964 decision at the top to focus resources on the System/360 ended these efforts rather suddenly.

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IBM 1401 Computer - LINK

Shown below is an IBM 360/65 a high end member of the 360 family. 
 
The S/360 was the most expensive CPU project in history. (The most expensive project of the 1960s was the Apollo program for moon exploration.  IBM's System/360 was the second most expensive. S/360 machines were also heavily used in the Apollo project.)
 
Fortune Magazine at the time referred to the project as IBM's "$5 billion gamble," and they were right. IBM absolutely bet the company on the System/360. (US $5 billion in 1964 dollars translates to about $30 plus  billion in 2005 dollars.)  But the bet paid off.
 
The S/360 was replaced by the compatible System/370 range in 1971.  Despite being sold in (for its time) very large numbers, only one System/360 computer is known to remain, a System/360 Model 30, in the custody of the Computer History Museum in Moffet Field, CA. It is in near-operable condition.
 
 IBM's competitors during the System/360 era included Burroughs, UNIVAC (later Sperry), NCR, CDC, and General Electric (later Honeywell), among others.

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IBM 360/65 Computer - LINK