IBM’s $5 billion gamble - the System/360. A whole family of machines. Here’s a particularly impressive console, of a 360/91 in NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center:
Some nice anecdotes here about working with a model 67:
This is the front panel and operator console of one of the CPUs. As you can see, IBM went nuts on incandescent lights for the various machine registers, but the only one that really mattered was the WAIT light, which lit when the machine wasn’t doing anything.
At that time every IBM mainframe came with a resident hardware engineer who fixed things on the spot, should something break. Before transistors, mostly what he did was replace 12AT7 vacuum tubes. Later as seen here, there wasn’t a lot to do except watch the log.
More about IBM’s big bet:
IBM’s revenue in 1962 was $2.5 billion. Developing System/360 cost twice that. Company president Tom Watson, Jr. had literally bet the company on it. Watson unveiled System/360 in 1964 — six computers with a performance range of 50 to 1, and 44 new peripherals — with great fanfare. Orders flooded in. The gamble paid off.
Much more detail at
and IBM’s own take at
production and sales of the System/360 meant a complete re-engineering of the company’s development resources, processes and strategy. In addition to posing a daunting marketing challenge, it would also kill off IBM’s golden goose—a disorganized but very profitable line of existing computer products.
Within eight weeks of the announcement, clients had ordered well over two thousand machines.
Michigan Terminal System
Content above from an earlier post to Retro Computing on G+, where Neale Ferguson noted:
The 67 gave us virtual machines with CP-67 a follow on to CP-40. This eventually became VM/370, VM/SP, VM/ESA, and today’s z/VM. Special circuitry was added to the 67 to give it virtual memory via direct address translation (DAT), which wasn’t part of the original 360 architecture (the project was already risky enough). I’ve posted this before but it’s worth repeating: http://www.leeandmelindavarian.com/Melinda/25paper.pdf. Also, you can still get the MTS executables, just Google it.
The idea for this a blog post by the HNF here:
The Computer of the Century [in German] but rather shortly after, and surely by coincidence, we see an article from the IEEE:
Building the System/360 Mainframe Nearly Destroyed IBM
with this excellent photo of the production line:
(Photo by IBM)
From that second article:
In the years leading up to its 7 April 1964 launch, the 360 was one of the scariest dramas in American business. It took a nearly fanatical commitment at all levels of IBM to bring forth this remarkable collection of machines and software. While the technological innovations that went into the S/360 were important, how they were created and deployed bordered on disaster. The company experienced what science policy expert Keith Pavitt called “tribal warfare”: people clashing and collaborating in a rapidly growing company with unstable, and in some instances unknown, technologies, as uncertainty and ambiguity dogged all the protagonists.