Spinning 360 degrees on 40th

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.

John Costello
A former operator and occasional programmer of a 360/40 in the mid 1960s (and Computerworld Australia's first editor)

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