It appears your correspondent, Ed Scannell, has fallen victim of IBM's PR machine which has arbitrarily decided we are marking the 40th anniversary of the mainframe. (Anniversary: The mainframe also rises, CW April 19, page 4.)
April 2004 certainly marked the 40th anniversary of the launch of System/360 by IBM but it far from the company's first mainframe.
It launched the 604 Calculating Punch in 1948 - the company's first large-scale electronic machine. (That was the same year the Hills Hoist was invented in Adelaide.)
Big Blue's first production computer - the 701 - rolled off the line in 1952.
In the same year AC Nielsen became IBM's first Australian customer to install a mainframe.
New model mainframes continued - RAMAC in 1956 and the 709 in 1957 - then 360 in 1964.
The 360 was a marketing coup more than a technological breakthrough. Launching a full range of machines with the same name from the 360/30 through to the 360/60 and, later the 360/65, gave the illusion they were all compatible with each other. It implied you could start small with a model 30 and grow all the way up to the top of the range.
It was just that - an illusion. But it worked.
The machines were generally reliable and allowed the development of major new applications needing high throughput such as credit card systems.
A more important 40th anniversary for you should be celebrated about now. It's 40 years since IDG produced its first publication - a modest newsletter called the EDP Industry Report.
It first issue correctly predicted the major features of IBM's new mainframe range and established a reputation carried on today through various publications - including your own.
A former operator and occasional programmer of a 360/40 in the mid 1960s (and Computerworld Australia's first editor)