Curious Marc takes delivery of an iconic front/control panel from a room-sized IBM System/360 computer circa the 1960s in a recent video.
This is a beautiful piece of equipment, and I would love to have one powered up, hanging on the wall in my office. Remembering that the larger models of this computer could have up to only 8 MB of main memory and execute about 16 million instructions each second. We could now replace the roomful of original equipment with a high-end Arduino.
I recently acquired this front panel from an IBM 360 mod 50, with lots of switches and over 250 blinkenlights. The IBM System/360 was an iconic mainframe computer introduced in 1964 (see promotional video here: https://youtu.be/V4kyTg9Cw8g). The system was a huge development gamble for IBM, with all the “models” from small to huge sharing mostly the same overall architecture and instruction set, but with radically different hardware implementations depending on the cost and performance point.
A key novelty was the introduction of “SLT” ceramic hybrid modules, pre-dating the integrated circuit, but with denser packaging than individual transistors. This front panel is from a model 50 (in IBM speak a “mod 50”), a larger business system. And yes, I’ll take you through most of the buttons. Take this with a grain of salt, this is very complicated and I am new at it. Understanding the meaning of every one of the 1,152 bits that the lights and rollers can display will take some serious further study. I am sure the IBM CEs (Customer Engineers) that spent their careers on these panels will chime in the comments section and correct all my mistakes.
It’s amazing that computers were controlled via switches to bootload them. A number of replicas have been made for the IMSAI 8080 and PDP11 recently, I think the IBM 360 may take longer to get the same treatment.
Here is a YouTube video of receiving the panel and checking it out.
Are you an old computer fan? Let us know in the comments below.
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