IBM 1401

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The IBM 1401, the first member of the IBM 1400 series, was a variable wordlength decimal computer that was announced by IBM on October 5, 1959. It was withdrawn on February 8, 1971.



From the announcement:

The all-transistorized IBM 1401 Data Processing System places the features found in electronic data processing systems at the disposal of smaller businesses, previously limited to the use of conventional punched card equipment. These features include: high speed card punching and reading, magnetic tape input and output, high speed printing, stored program, and arithmetic and logical ability.'
The 1401 may be operated as an independent system, in conjunction with IBM punched card equipment, or as auxiliary equipment to IBM 700 or 7000 series systems.[1]

Although most commonly used by small businesses, the IBM 1401 was also frequently used as an off-line peripheral controller for large scientific and business computers. In these installations the big computer, such as an IBM 7090, did its input-output on magnetic tapes. The 1401 formated input data from other peripherals such as thein the IBM 1402 model punched card reader to the tapes, and transferred output data from tapes to the card punch or the IBM 1403 lineprinter.

Monthly rental for 1401 configurations started at US$2,500. By late 1961, the 2000 installed in the USA were about one quarter of all electronic stored-program computers by all manufacturers. The number of installed 1401s peaked above 10,000 in the mid-1960s, and the system was marketed until February 1971.[2]

Elements within IBM, notably John Haanstra, an executive in charge of 1401 deployment, supported its continuation in larger models for evolving needs (e.g., the IBM 1410) but the 1964 decision at the top to focus resources on the System/360 ended these efforts rather suddenly. To preserve customer investment in 1401 software, IBM pioneered the use of microcode emulation, in the form of ROM, so that some System/360 models could run 1401 programs. Such emulation continued until Year 2000 problem efforts caused the still-running 1401 code to be rewritten.

Two 1401 systems are being restored to operating order at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, complete with a "false floor" typical of the mainframe era (and modern data centers), used to hide cabling.[3][4]

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