The IBM 701 “IBM’s first computer” #History #VintageComputing @DeTreville

The IBM 701 was introduced in 1952 and was IBM’s first (mass-produced, stored-program) computer. John DeTreville digs into the history on Substack.

The IBM 701 was mass-produced, with about 20 systems installed across the United States.

The IBM 701 was first called the Defense Calculator, then announced as the IBM 701 Electronic Data Processing Machine. IBM did not call it a “computer,” still holding to the old definition of “computers” as the people doing computations. This historic distinction faded quickly, and a “computer” became just another kind of machine, albeit a very useful one.

The IBM 701’s architecture is like that of modern computers in most ways, but several aspects can seem quite surprising from the modern viewpoint. Today’s readers should remember that the IBM 701 had millions of times less power and capacity than a modern smartphone; it can seem amazing that it worked at all, but it was a significant commercial success.

The IBM 701’s logic circuitry used vacuum tubes; it was therefore a first-generation computer. (Transistors has been invented by this time but none were used in the IBM 701.)

Memory was electrostatic, with 72 Williams Tubes of 1,024 bits each.

This provided a high-speed random-access memory (RAM), but without error detection or correction.

Read more in the article here.

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