Monday, October 05, 2009

50 Years ago: IBM 1401

I never programmed the IBM 1401, although I used mainframes that used a 1401 to do their input and output spooling. An article by John Murrell in the San Jose Mercury News notes that today is the 50th anniversary of the 1401. Among its characteristics, the 1401:
  • Occupied a large, air-conditioned room,
  • Weighed two to four tons (depending on configuration),
  • Had a CPU clock speed of .000087 GHz (87 kilohertz),
  • Had up to .000016 GB of RAM (1.4K-16K characters)
  • Rented for $45,000/month (in today's dollars),
  • Sold for $3,400,000.
  • As IBM put it, "Speed: In one minute, the 1401 Processing Unit can perform 193,300 additions (eight-digit numbers) or 25,000 multiplications (six-digit numbers by four-digit numbers)."
We've come a long way in 50 years.

By the mid-1960s, half the computers in the world were members of the IBM 1400 series.


Comment by Blogger Dan:

We may have come a long way, but in those 50 years, in my own warped opinion, no one has designed a computer that was more fun to program and use. The front panel, in particular, had a spare elegance that has never been equaled. And the instruction set and corresponding data and execution models were so delightfully quirky as to provide hours of semi-perverse fun.

One of my life's ambitions is to have someone craft me a working 1401, complete with front panel display, that can be mounted on a tiepin. The biggest challenge would presumably be to find a way to make anything run slowly enough.

4:33 PM  

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