Variable Word length CPU
cclist at sydex.com
Mon Nov 7 12:33:38 CST 2005
On 11/6/2005 at 5:23 PM William Donzelli wrote:
>The 1400 series was specifically designed to clear out a bunch of the
>older, hard to maintain, unit record equipment. Use as an effective
>sidekick for some of the 7000 series was a happy surprise for IBM.
I think the reality here is somewhere between "yes they did" and "no they
There was never a 1401 setup was even remotely competitive with a small DP
operation that used unit-record equipment. A quick perusal of the numbers
shows that the lease cost of a 1401 with tape, printer and punch was in no
way competitive with the lease cost for a simple set of unit record
equipment (407, 519, 082). A single 1401 could be much faster and do more
complex operations than the unit record equipment, but the old stuff was
very robust and economical.
However, for the larger DP customers, a 1401, owing to its use of tape
(handling fewer trays of punched cards) and faster I/O (the 1403 printer
was a comparative speed demon to the 407 printer) was a very attractive
alternative for a big roomful of unit record equipment. What is more
significant, it was extremely attractive as a replacement for earlier
business computers, such as the vacuum-tube 650. (The 1401 could simulate
650 code). On the other hand, it meant a lot of retraining--many shops
kept some of the UR equipment, such as the 082 for sorting, since it didn't
necessitate re-punching cards after sorting (there are some operations that
UR equipment does better).
IBM was actively trying to upgrade their customer base from UR to computer
for a long time. I recall that a friend in the late 60's was excited that
his employer, a small Chicago area manufacturer, had just upgraded from UR
equipment to a 360/20 on the advice of an IBM SE. Lots of interesting new
stuff and new tricks to perform. He thought it was wonderful.
Every morning, the DP head would deliver a thick bundle of paper to the
president, summarizing the state of the corporate accounts. Of course, the
president simply filed it without reading--he already knew, through
interaction with the sales department, how things stood.
But the new equipment required taking on extra employees and was a lot more
expensive. After awhile, the push to add more equipment started and the
president began to wonder why, since business hadn't increased all that
much, why more of the corporate overhead was dedicated to DP operations.
IBM was holding a seminar for prospective customers in the area, so the
president (without telling the DP manager) attended. He laid out the
extent of his operation as if he'd had no EDP at al to one of the SE's and
received the reply that some unit record equipment should do the job just
fine. He asked if perhaps a computer may not be a better choice and the
sales guy replied, no, your operation isn't large enough to justify it.
The 360/20 was out of the door two months later. The extra employees
followed shortly thereafter.
The point of this is that even during the 60's, IBM was still actively
recommending and leasing UR equipment.
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