SLIDESHOW: CIO Blast from the Past -- 110 Years of IBM technology

A visual tour of IBM technology from the original 1899 Moneyweight Scale to Roadrunner, the first system to break the petaflop barrier, and everything in between. How many of these systems have you used during your career in IT?

  • How many of these IBM systems have you seen during your career in IT?

  • DAYTON MONEYWEIGHT SCALE. This Dayton Moneyweight Scale dates from the early 20th century. The Moneyweight Scale Company was founded in Chicago in 1899 as a marketing arm of the Computing Scale Company of Dayton, Ohio. WF Stimpson of Detroit later formed a trust with the Computing Scale Company. This trust was called Computing Scale Company of America which changed its name to Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company in 1911 and became IBM in 1924.

  • FIELD REPLACEABLE UNITS 1. Methods of packaging, called Field Replaceable Units, containing a tube and other circuit components such as capacitors and resistors, significantly reduced the time to service failing machines. These pluggable units were first used in the IBM 604 Calculator in 1948.

  • FIELD REPLACEABLE UNITS 2. To this day, replaceable parts in IBM machines are designated as Field Replaceable Units (called " FRUs").

  • ELECTRIC TYPEWRITER. This is one model of the IBM Executive electric typewriter which led the industry from the 1940s for more than four decades. The machine’s many innovative features included proportional spacing, a carbon ribbon for clear imposition and a correcting ribbon.

  • PUNCH CARDS: EARLY STORAGE CAPACITY. Print drums such as these were used to customise punch cards during the manufacturing process. A standard box of 2000 80-column punch cards could store up to 16,000 characters.

  • MANUAL CARD PUNCH. Data was recorded by hand on this early card-punching machine. Later models were electrically controlled by keyboard, with automated feeding and stacking of cards.

  • PUNCH CARD GAUGE. Fine tolerances demanded accurate registration of the punched holes in the cards. Accuracy was periodically checked on gauges such as the one shown here.

  • THE SELECTRIC REVOLUTION. IBM’s Selectric typewriter, released in 1961, revolutionised the electric typewriter through the introduction of the fast and accurate “Golfball” print element, which could be interchanged for different typefaces.

  • IBM 360/30 MAINFRAME. The console of the IBM’s 360/30 mainframe of mid 1960’s. The 360 series was the first family of computers designed to cover a wide range of applications, from small to large, both commercial and scientific. The design made a clear distinction between architecture and implementation, allowing IBM to release a suite of compatible designs at different prices.

  • SYSTEM 360 CORE STORAGE. The core storage show here, from a System 360, held 16,000 characters. The cores, mounted on stacked planes, constituted the largest single component on the board. The SLT cards around the core unit carried circuits which enabled information to be written in and read out.

  • PRINT BUFFER. An IBM System 360 print buffer

  • IBM S/370-145 MAINFRAME. The famous console of the IBM S/370-145 mainframe of the 1970’s. The 145 microcode architecture in the 370 simplified the addition of virtual memory, allowing the this capability to be present in early 145s without the extensive hardware modifications needed in other models.

  • HIGH-PERFORMANCE IBM DISK FILES. Disk files, using the thin film head introduced in 1980, have achieved read/write speeds of 3 million characters per second and can store more than 5000 million characters. On the head assembly and actuator of the IBM 3990 shown here, you can see the tiny read/write thin film heads.

  • MAGNETIC TAPE. Magnetic tape was introduced in the 1950s and, in a highly evolved form, is still in use. Shown is a self-loading reel and a read/write head from an earlier tape drive. Today’s cartridges can be stacked and automatically fed. Density and speed are increasingly dramatically.

  • THE WINCHESTER DISK. IBM set the standard for a decade from 1973 with the 3340, a removable unit containing disks and recording heads in a sealed pack. Each head could handle densities of 1.7 million bits per square inch. The heads floated on a miniscule film of air above the disk surface.

  • DISK PACKS. Removable disk packs were first introduced to the computer industry in 1962. the example shown was used with the IBM 1311. Each pack held more than two million characters and the packs could be exchanged to run various applications.

  • PRINTERS. IBM pioneered the development of high-speed, high-volume computer printers. The chain printer, introduced with the 1401 in 1959, whirled type slugs on a loop in front of computer-fired hammers at a top speed of 600 lines per minute. In 1963, a steel track lifted speed to 1100 lines per minute. The more economical 3262 printed at 600 lines per minute in 1974. An example of a band from the 3262 is shown here.

  • IBM 1401. With the IBM 1401, computers began to reach smaller organisations. The 1401 used punch cards, magnetic tape, disk storage and a 600-line-per-minute printer. Shown are the operator panel and a plane from the magnetic memory core array.

  • SDLC ADAPTOR. Circuits in the PC motherboard allowed communication at lower speed with a remote device. These adaptor cards complemented those circuits, enabling communication with larger systems or handling of high volumes of data on carrier circuits using SDLC (SYNCHRONOUS DATA LINK CONTROL).

  • IBM’s RACETRACK MEMORY. Debuting in 2008, IBM’s “racetrack" memory stores data as a magnetic pattern on a nanowire 1000 times finer than a human hair. Spin-polarized electrical currents cause the magnetic pattern to race along a wire track, from which data can be read or written -- in either direction -- in less than a nanosecond.

  • MODEL M KEYBOARD. IBM introduced the 101-key "Model M" keyboard in 1984 and it is still considered by many programmers to be the best keyboard ever made.

  • IBM PCjr (1983). The first keyboard that shipped with the IBM PCjr remains the most infamous one of all time -- it's one of the few cases where a keyboard contributed directly to a PC's failure in the marketplace. One of the first wireless models on the market, it required a steady supply of batteries and didn't work if users took advantage of its wireless nature in any comfortable fashion, such as placing the keyboard on their lap. IBM cut corners by creating a Chiclet keyboard with hard plastic keys that had nothing printed on them (instead, letters, numbers and symbols were printed in a tiny, low-contrast font directly above each key). The press quickly declared the PCjr DOA, and the machine would be discontinued within a year.

  • BLUE GENE/P. With more than 160,000 processors, Blue Gene/P is used for studying exploding stars. According to the researchers who work with it at Argonne Labs, outside Chicago, what a desktop computer could accomplish in a thousand years, the Blue Gene/P supercomputer can perform in three days.

  • IBM PCs. The IBM PS2 Model 60 PC of 1987 (left) and the original IBM PC of 1981 (right).

  • ROADRUNNER. IBM and Los Alamos teamed up to build Roadrunner, the world's fastest supercomputer with 1.5 petaflops, three times faster than the previous champ. Pictured is lead engineer Don Grice of IBM inspecting Roadrunner at Big Blue's US plant. A petaflop is a measure of speed equivalent to one thousand trillion calculations per second.

  • IBM PC (5150). IBM’s first PC, which had a Disk Operating System (DOS), was introduced in 1981 and played a significant role in the rapid spread of personal computers.

  • PS/2 MOTHERBOARDS. Circuits start shrinking: the larger of these two boards is from a PS/2 model 70 from 1987. The smaller board is from the PS/2 model 95 of 1993. Each of the three cards mounted on the 95 can store 8 million characters. For another history slideshow see CIO's [[artnid:268510|Tech of Yesteryear: Where Old Computers Find Their Final Resting Place|new]].

  • IBM PC/AT (1984). The IBM PC and XT began the PC era, but the pace of change was so fast back then, and the power of Intel 8088 and 8086 processors was so slight, that the more muscular Intel 80286 made "plain PCs" obsolete almost overnight. The AT's memory, for example, topped out at 16MB as opposed to the PC's toylike 640K. The first model debuted at 6 MHz, but an 8 MHz model quickly followed. The AT was discontinued in 1990, four years into the Intel 80386 era.

  • FLOPPY DISK DRIVES. In 1970, IBM introduced the 8-inch floppy disk, which could store 81,000 characters. The floppy disk has evolved through the 5.25-inch to the 3.5-inch, which holds two million characters. Shown is a recent 3.5-inch PC floppy disk drive unit, most of which were gradually phased out during the 90s.

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