IBM 701 – Throwback Tech Thursday

This week in May 1859, Sherlock Holmes author, Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. Bonnie and Clyde were shot and killed in a stolen Ford Deluxe during May 1934. Ireland voted for the legalisation of same-sex marriage in May 2015. All of these events held their own significance, some more than others. This Throwback Tech Thursday, we have decided to look at another significant tech event in May’s history. We’re rolling back the clock to 21 May, 1952. IBM officially announced the IBM 701, the company’s first commercially available scientific computer.

IBM started making customer briefing calls about the IBM 701 on April 23 1952. They announced at a board meeting on April 29 that they had 10 pre-orders of the computer.

Work on the IBM 701 Defence Calculator began during late 1950.

IBM most advanced, most flexible high-speed computer in the world

According to President of IBM at the time, Thomas J. Watson, “This machine has the capacity of, and much more speed than the Selective Sequence Electronic Calculator, which we announced in 1948.

The new calculator takes less than one-quarter the space of the previous machine. It is difficult to compare speeds, but we feel conservatively that the new calculator is 25 times faster than our old one and far more flexible.”

Withdrawn in 1954

Monthly rent for the IBM 701 was $8,100 (although in 1953, they had announced a monthly rental price of $11,900).

The first production model composed of eleven compact and connected units referred to as “IBM Electronic Processing Machine”. IBM envisaged that they would build eighteen of these within a year for government agencies. The use of the 701 was; “the calculation of radiation effects in atomic energy; for aerodynamic computations for planes and guided missiles, including vibration and stress analysis, design and performance computations for jet and rocket engines, propellers, landing gear, radomes, etc.; on studies related to the effectiveness of various weapons; and on steam and gas turbine design calculations,” for example.

To find out more about the IBM 701, a full history can be found here.
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