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1401 Stories

Purpose of this page - provide stories of the unit record world and the 1401. Here are more stories about other machines.
newest near the top (here)


Letter to T J Watson Jr. printed on IBM 1403 with film ribbon - added May 21, 2013

Background: We had been talking about the 1403 printer, ribbons, and how a "one pass film ribbon" could give beautifully formed printed characters without the smudges and imperfections due to the fabric of the usual printer ribbon. Also on what special print jobs such expensive film ribbons would be used.
Frank King provided one occassion ;-))


Yes, A Senior CE and I installed a 1401 (4K) Reader Punch and Printer at "The Data Center" in Greensboro NC. We started at 08:30 and had completed the diagnostics and turned the system over to the customer at about 12:00.

The customer had prepared a letter to T J Watson Jr. and O M Scott (President of Field Engineering). He had it punched up and ran it on the 1403 using a mylar single pass ribbon. Our field manager came in to see how we were doing, with plans to take us to lunch. The customer showed the letter to our manager and said, "If I had money for a stamp I would mail it to IBM Headquarters." I think that's the fastest I had ever seen my field manager move to get money into the data center manager's hand.

Needless to say a few weeks later we got an award from IBM.

The problem was that the salesmen in Greensboro started telling customers we could install a 1401 system in 4 hours. The reason that was not true, was because it was a simple system (only three boxes), we had no bugs, lots of manual labor help from the operators and we had just installed a 1401 tape system a couple of weeks before. Also, the room had been pre-prepared. The Senior CE was Sam Rushton and my manager was Clete Waldmiller.

Frank


1401, from 305 RAMAC to 360 - from Milton Thrasher June 24, 2011

I just finished listening to the wonderful 2 hour video of how the IBM 1401 came about. It was created in November 2009 to coincide with the 50th Anniversary of the Announcement. I was an IBM Salesman on the Bell Telephone Labs at Whippany, NJ out of the Newark Branch Office. I had installed one of the first IBM 305 Ramacs before becoming their salemen. We had a team of Roy Marsan, leader and Walt Smith and I on the team.

I had a 2 week assignment when an SE to go to the IBM Endicott Lab to learn about the IBM 1401 sufficient to see if one of the more complicated punch card jobs could be programmed on a 1.4K system. I was able to do it in only a few days while the wiring of the 604/407 application had taken me over 3 months to wire it with control panels. One of the big features of the IBM 1401 was the elimination of congtrol panels!

This 2 hour presentation was done at the IBM Computer Museum where they rehabed two IBM 1401s and told that story as part of the presentation. See it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVsX7aHNENo. See the photo attached.

I particularly enjoyed hearing Chuck Branscomb telling the business environment in which IBM 1401 came about. He personally was a key player as he had shot down the German Bull Gamma fighter that the French Labs had proposed called the WAM - World Wide Accounting Machine.

Later, I was a Systems Engineering Manager in the IBM Elizabeth, NJ Branch Office where the IBM 1401 wasthe key product that we were involved with. I found a set of macro programs that Ed Czerkies had created at IBM Corp Hdq at 590 Madison Avenue, NYC. He called it his "shoe box" as it took a full box of IBM 5081 cards for all of them (about the size of a shoe box). I had my SEs introduce them to their accounts. That was important because the Honeywell 200 "Liberator" became a big threat to the IBM 1401. Because their software could not convert the "shoe box" macros, those IBM 1401s were saved. They called my shoe box of card the "Captivator".

When I went to IBM Eastern Region to be the IBM Systems Engineering Techniques Development Manager, I produced a number of IBM aids to make the installation work a lot easier. They were mostly one card programs and tables that SEs carried in their suit pockets or attachee' cases. When the IBM S/360 came along, I produced the IBM PAT/360 program by copying the IBM 1401 PAT System for remote program testing.

You can see why I was so pleased to learn this background information about a system that we all knew and loved and remember fondly.

Milton

Milton Thrasher
941 966-9172


Early ?1st? 1401 Application - from Milton Thrasher June 20, 2011

Best of all was my week or 10 days with the IBM 1401 Development team under Fran Underwood. I was able in a matter of a few days program a Telephone Directory Billing application that with the same deck of card produced print slips for the typesetters in the 22 yellow page directories of NJ Bell Telephone.

The original job was done on 604/407s with lots of additional storage and co-selectors. It took me over 3 months to wire up the application that was originally developed in Ohio Bell at Youngstown, OH. I was able to do it all in a 1.4 K IBM 1401 that proved the viability of that small of memory.

While doing that work, I met the development team and was very impressed with their creativity and responsiveness to suggestions.

Now that I am retired, I play a lot of tennis and found Earl Bloom here in Sarasota, FL who is also retired and plays tennis. He worked with Fran Underwood and others of the IBM 1401 Development Team. We both were at the IBM Centennial as you will see in my Photoshow. Earl Bloom got several patents for IBM while working with that group in Endicott.

You probably know that Fran Underwood recently had another birthday.

The IBM Centeninial at Tampa, FL PhotoShow is at http://www.photoshow.com/watch/sE9Dh6nh

Milton Thrasher


"Mystique and Lore" from Keith Falkner Jan 27, 2011

Dear Robert,

My first permanent job was in 1963, at IBM. As soon as I learned how to program the 1401, I started developing commercial programs for many customers in Ontario. Among them were life insurance companies, manufacturers, department stores, an air transport organization, and probably others I forget.

I learned to wire panels for 602, 402, and 407, and casually learned the simpler ones, such as 088, 513 and the interpreter (557?). The only application I wired for profit was a series-50 602. Abitibi Paper needed a "crossfoot verification". I had to verify that seven figures in each card accurately presented A+B+/-C+D+E+/-F=G. It turned out that this was exactly at the upper limit of a series-50 602's processing power, so I had no room for error.

But I was involved earlier in a company moving from UR to EDP. This was my first job ever, a summer job in 1959; I was a high school graduate! In 1959, Canada Life, one of Canada's major insurers was part way through a lengthy file-verification process. Many thousands of cards went through a 108 Card Proving Machine, in an attempt to weed out errors before the computers arrived. I built a lot of muscles there, horsing hundred-tray files from end to end of the building and back again, then merging corrected cards back into those same files. When shortcomings in the 108's wired program needed correction, someone else had to do that, and I ran other UR machines, so I guess I know most of the card machines rather well. I do not put these skills on my resume, but you know, maybe I should.

As to "Mystique and Lore", that is a matter of individual involvement and motivation. I have greatly enjoyed most of my jobs, and I thought of the 1401 as a friend and co-worker.

Once upon a time, a company named Royal Insurance moved from Montréal to Toronto, and its programs moved from the Montreal Datacentre to the Toronto Datacentre, and they landed in my lap. They were AWFUL, universally examples of rotten rotten code, and I recall feeling sorry for the poor 1401 that had to follow these garbled orders and make endless stupid mistakes.

Here's an example of the illogic I found: Most months, a certain monthly program was supposed to detect a certain type of policy and punch two cards, but in October it was supposed to punch four cards, but the operators were aware that it punched four cards for the first situation, but only two for each following one, and used an 80-80-rep program to make up the deficit. Why? Here's why.



NOPUN DCW @0@
Usually, during initialization, we had
MCW @2@,NOPUN
but in October, we had instead
MCW @4@,NOPUN
The above code was executed once.

Then, when some cards were needed, we had
(logic to create the card)
HITIT P
   S    @1@,NOPUN
   MZ  @0@,NOPUN
   C    @0@,NOPUN
   BU HITIT

So how did we get two cards in, for example March? NOPUN counted from 2 to 1 to 0, giving us two cards. Next time through, NOPUN counted to -1 and had its zone stripped, and then it counted back to zero, again giving us two cards.

In October, NOPUN counted from 4 to 3 to 2 to 1 to 0 giving us four cards. Next time through, NOPUN again counted to -1 and back to zero, giving us two cards.

The author of this abysmal code was Joe Clenman, and he must have been aware of his shortcomings, because he put a lot of 7-byte NOP instructions amid his code, to simplify patching. So I called him NO-OP Joe (but of course I never met him, because his boss tricked him into retiring -- "It's the only way you can get the three-week vacation that you want for your honeymoon, Joe. I will be able to hire you back after you return from your honeymoon.") Note that there was no promise to rehire Joe, and FERSHOOER there was no such intent in the boss' mind. He thanked Joe for asking for his job back, and ushed Joe right out of the building.

And man, did I have a lot of detective work to do in order to determine from Joe's sloppy coding what the damn programs were supposed to do. I must have got some of it almost right, because within a year, Royal Insurance signed for some new applications, specifying that yours truly write the code.

Now, if I can recall these details after the span of 47 years, I think that recall shows that I cared a lot about the machine and the work it enabled me to do. We had musical programs, you know. I do not mean Turkey in the Straw or She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain on the 1403; I mean songs that were broadcast to a radio placed in the guts of the computer. They were tinny and trite, but of course so were the radios.

Back to Auto-Loder. One day, a few minutes after quitting time, I was trying to debug something, when a nearby phone rang, and a supervisor (not a programmer) answered. It appeared that a customer was explaining what had gone wrong, in very exhaustive detail. I could hear only the supervisor's side of the conversation, but I determined to gather enough information to solve the problem, and in fact I did. So I heard the supervisor cordially say good-bye to the customer and hang up. You know exactly what the supervisor's next word was, but he brightened up a lot when I came into his cubicle and presented three coding sheets with an Auto-Loder program that I expected to solve the problem. It came fairly close the first time we tried it, and worked completely within an hour. I think the supervisor and I sold a lot of programming when the solution was presented, but I got my reward by seeing the proper reports come out. By chance, this supervisor was my boss in 1985 and 1986, when I worked for a major Canadian Laboratory (which my grandfather had worked for in the early twentieth century!).

I have a long motorcycle ride in the next two days, so I will amuse myself on I-75 by recalling more of these anecdotes, and I'll pass some along next week.

I'll include one on vandalism!
(I made it up to the victim.)

Keith


Predict Home Run Race from Jim Foley Sept 15, 2006

1961

Roger Maris vs Mickey Mantle Home Run Race in 1961 The Statistical Tab Co. was asked by the “Today Show” to predict the winner of the race to beat the Babes record of 60 homers. Their office was located in the shadow of what would be the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan, a big hole in the ground at that time. Their prediction was reported daily from the 1401 Computer Room with a live TV broadcast on the Today Show. Frank Blair was the news anchor on site. I would make my way into New York from New Jersey on the first Ferry from Hoboken at about 4 am.

My job was to make sure things ran smooth. Things went fine for the first few days until one day we hit a glitch. From that day forward the analysis results were run before the telecast and the results were re-fed into the 1403 printer. For the live show as the camera zoomed in to display the result I would crouch behind the printer and hit the escape button. Real Time at its best.


1st Computer to Satellite? from Jim Foley Sept 15, 2006

1962

The IBM 1961 – The first commercial IBM modem developed at the Glendale Labs in upper NY State. I received my training at the lab sometime late 61 or early 62.

My territory moved way uptown to just south of Canal Street. I was assigned to the ATT Hdg Building and their 1401 near the top floor. After being cleared for “Secret” I was told that were going to use their administrative 1401 and the 1961 modem to originate computer data to sent to the Telstar Satellite and return them. A full wrap around test was the plan. I chose of all things the 1403 ripple print program that was used to clean the print chains. I worked with the ATT techs for some weeks lashing the 1961 box to their analog multiplex converter with the lash up to Andover Maine for the transmission to the satellite. The original Telstar had one innovative transponder to relay data, which was a television channel or multiplexed telephone circuits. The test to Andover was successful with my ripple print pattern humming away after a two to three minute loop delay.

The day came for the test, Telstar would be in range for about a half hour. I Ran the patter through the IBM 1961 modem to the ATT multiplexer and off to Andover. We then waited. Nothing, nothing back to my waiting 1403, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes, then finally at about 26 minutes later came the sweet hum of the 1403. This was probably the first computer communication to a satellite and I had the cleanest print chain in the US.


High Humidity and Crack Cores story from Rick Dill Aug 4, 2009

in response to worries about humidity control at CHM
At this point, local humidity control is probably not an issue. We are looking at over 40 years in which the transistors with slight leaks in there "hermetic" seal accumulated moisture under conditions a whole lot more harsh than the bay area. The transistors which might fail next have most of the moisture already inside and it won't come out easily without at least a vacuum bake (NOT RECOMMENDED).

While I haven't seen the restoration room it simply isn't Houston in the summer. It was there that IBM encountered a one in something like 500 million failure of cores under high humidity. It turns out that the cores were manufactured in Poughkeepsie in a room with ceiling tile that slowly flaked residue. If a tiny flake got into the cores pre-fired ceramic mix, it would get pressed into a core by the pill forming machines IBM used. If the flake was completely surrounded by ceramic, it caused no damage. If, however, it was exposed at the surface, then in very humid environments it would expand and crack the core. The system redundancy was able to handle a few cracked cores, but in Singapore and Houston, among other places, the CE's would come in late at night and replace all the cores in a system without ever letting on to the customer about the problem.

The engineering solution was to create the most dirty clean room I ever saw. The ceiling tiles were replaced with HEPA filters,but the room was still involved in pressing cores out of black ceramic which was everywhere in the clean room. So long as the ceiling tiles weren't shedding, the cores were as reliable as one would expect from a small piece of ceramics.

That, of course, brings up the demise of cores in IBM just as the details of the physics was understood and the technology advancing at a tremendous pace.

Anyway, lowering the humidity in the restoration room is a useless exercise, at least as far as leaky transistors goes.

Rick ... no I actually never worked on core memories, although for a brief period we thought about magnetic logic using multi-aperture cores. The challenge was to build an alternate technology 1401, but management never got the program off the ground. It was fascinating to think about, but certainly not the right direction to go in.


IBM 1401 Makes its Debut in San Francisco from Jan Barris Aug 2, 2009

or "Grace Under Pressure" ;-))
A true story by Jan Swanson Loper Barris

It was 1960 and the IBM 1401 was to be demonstrated for the first time in public at the Data Processing Management Association’s National Convention. The Binghamton DPMA Chapter, of which I was an active member, decided to send me to the convention as a delegate. I had never been to the West Coast so the appeal of San Francisco and the chance to see the customers react to our “great new machine” was exciting. I really wanted to go, but I knew the trip would be expensive.

Fortunately, Jim Greene of Product Marketing and Noel Cappetini (Cappy) Manager of Product Publications thought it would be a good idea to have someone in San Francisco available in case there were any problems with the demonstration program which had been written, I believe, by Product Marketing. I had worked with the development team as the Lead Writer on the 1401 Reference manual and had knowledge of how the hardware worked and could write simple programs in machine language. After several phone calls and some fancy negotiating by Cappy, Jim Greene and the President of the DPMA decided to split the cost of my trip 3 ways and I got the approval to go.

I decided to leave a couple of days early the Friday before the convention so I could do some sightseeing in San Francisco. Just after my plane left the Broome County Airport, there was a tremendous storm and Endicott was flooded. The 1401 that was to be shipped to San Francisco was under water on the loading dock at the Endicott Plant.

Unbeknownst to me, the powers that be located another 1401 in Chicago and sent it to San Francisco. When I arrived at the Fairmont Hotel on Saturday morning, the customer engineers were assembling the Chicago 1401 at the demonstration site. They were using Product Marketing’s demonstration program to test the system. Nothing worked! I watched them get more and more frustrated as they were sure they had done their jobs correctly.

Finally, I asked a pivotal question. “How many bytes of core does this machine have?” They investigated and informed me that the machine was a 2K version. Well, I knew that the demo program was written for a 4K machine and told them so. What were we to do? There wasn’t time to send the program back to product marketing and the system had to be ready to be demonstrated on Monday.

Shortly, the systems engineer from the branch office that was in charge of operating the demonstration machine appeared on the scene hoping to do a trial run. We told him of our problem and he volunteered to help me reprogram the demo. (He was single and had the whole weekend free.) Between the two of us we figured out how to make the machine look good with only 2K available for the program.

We put a legend in core storage and gave one command after the other -- seek, print, punch and write to tape. There was no space left for error routines, so we simply left them out. On Sunday we punched up the code and ran a system test with the customer engineers looking on with great relief. Needless to say the 1401 performed magnificently. All the input output devices operated at top speed. We decided that this would make an excellent demonstration and went out for dinner at the Gaslight club.

On Monday the convention attendees gathered for the great unveiling of the 1401. I stood in the front row between Shel Jacobs, the 1401 Marketing Lead and Al Barr, the Manager of Product Planning—both from Endicott. The local demonstrators had no experience with the 1401 and put the cards in the card reader upside down.

Red error lights flashed galore. But, with no error routines to stop the system it just kept going. The tape reels spun, the RAMAC search arm moved quickly, the cards punched in rapid succession and the printer spewed out reams of paper as fast as possible. It was an impressive sight! Shel and Al were proud as they could be.

Then, Al Barr turned to me and said “Did you have something to do with this, Jan”? I nodded.


1401 PowerUP, Time & Life Building from Jud McCarthy May 1, 2005

A little background: A major show case for IBM of their wares was at the Time Life Building in a prestigious section of Manhatten.

Robert: In reading the correspondence between you and Chuck Branscomb, concerning the 1401 and the transmission from punched cards to magnetic tape and on to disk systems, reminded me of a story as it applied to installing the first 1401 System at the Time and Life building in NY City. The following dialogue especially jerked my memory.

"I'm assuming that the tape systems (and then later 1405/1311 disk systems) did move thousands of unit-record accounting machine users to another "new world" without storing data on zillions of punched cards.  My blurb says (this factoid from the 1971 THINK magazine article on 1401):
"A year later, the first 1401 was delivered to Time-Life, which transferred 40 million cards to just several hundred magnetic tape reels. Unforeseen by all involved, 1401 tape (and later magnetic disk) systems effectively ended the era of storing data records on countless punched cards."

The Story:

After working on the original Development Engineering team of the 1401 and spending time early on, assisting 1401 Manufacturing to debug the first units on the line, I was asked to fly down to NYC to assist in setting up the first 1401 system in the Time & Life building. As a young snotty nosed kid and one of the low men on the totem pole, I was more than excited and anxious to accept the challenge.

The mission was to get there and prepare the raised floor area in the basement of the Time & Life building for installation, prior to the arrival of the system. On arrival of the system we were to unpack all the system units, string the large power and signal cables under the raised floor, and get it set up and tested before 7:30 AM the next morning. The system finally arrived very late afternoon and we proceeded to set it up and get ready to put power on. Our estimate was that we would be ready for "power on" at midnight, and were told that a person would be there to assist us, but we were not to plug the power cable in until he arrived. At midnight, we were ready for power, but no one showed up to plug the power cable in. At 2:00 AM were getting wrestles and had a maintenance person start making phone calls. He told us someone would be in, in about ½ hour. By 4:00 AM, we were afraid we would not make the 7:30 AM system ready dead line, and that customers scheduled to view a functioning system that morning would be more than disappointed.

Being responsible for the 1401 power system, I then took it upon myself and went over and plugged the system in. We commenced to bring the system up and get it functioning. At 6:00 AM a big man came in with clip board under his arm yelling "Who the hell plugged in this system?" Of course everyone looked at me. He came over to me and looked down and said " Are you the one who plugged the power in ?" After I confessed, he took out his pen and clip pad and yelled "Give me your name and who you represent, no one is supposed to plug the power in except me." Being very naive and scarred to death, I took out my little Think Pad that I was keeping notes on and simply said "OK, but please give me your name and where were you at midnight, when we were told someone would be here to handle the power?" He hesitated for a minute, with everyone watching, and said in a loud voice "Have you got this system up and running?" After I said "Yes, we are just about finished" he walked around the area, making gestures with his arms, while checking every thing out and turned and said. "OK, if you have any problems, let me know" and went into a nearby office.

I never thought anything about it, until later that morning when the system was perking along. That’s when the resident IBM Senior CE, who had helped with the set up, explained that I had just encountered the local union official and could have shut IBM down for the next month or more. Sometimes being young, naive and ignorant of the real world can be an advantage.


"Slight of hand ;-))" from Jud McCarthy May 1, 2005

Here is an interesting 1401 Development story from Byron Rucker (1401 Development Engineer) that involves B.O.Evens and Chuck Branscomb. Regards ----- Jud

PS: I believe Byron will be one of the mini 1401 reunion attendees in Endicott on 8/6/2009.


-----Original Message-----
From: Rosa M Rucker - rmaygolf at juno dot com
Subject: Re: 1401 tape and chain printer support

Jud - I transferred to Glendale in January of 1959. I worked with Walt Shaffer on the attachment interface to the TAU unit.

We got two very early 729 tape drives (Serial No.'s 2 and 7) off the 729 tape line.

Apparently they were delivered to the dock in the upper building, but Branscomb decided they must be for the 1401 so they got moved (late at night) to the lower building.
I understand B. O. Evans was on the line with Poughkeepsie trying to determine when he was going to get his tape drives for the 7070 program. We had tapes up and running very early. I do not remember the A, B, C model designation.

Byron


Comment by Ed Thelen --
Yeah Sure - and if not - we will put them to good use while we can - hate to see them idle ;-))
How to make "the system" work for you ;-))


ManufactNote-A from Jud McCarthy April 5, 2009

Rob: As I re-think about it, the A Level Model was most likely used in Europe. Again, Earl Bloom can confirm this. The C Test units were built by Manufacturing at the Endicott North street facility. Not counting the basement, they were built and tested on the second floor of Building 46 on the North East corner of the building. Building 46 was on the North side of the railroad tracks on the South West corner of McKinlney Ave & Watson Boulevard. The 1403 printers were built and tested on the first & second floor of Building 41, that was on the North West corner of North Street & McKinnley Ave. You could walk from the second floor of Building 46 (1401 test area) through a passage way right into the 1403 test area on the second floor of Building 41. Frank Silkman's team assembled & tested the memory units on the third floor of Building 46.
--- Regards --- Jud


Soft Spot from Alan Kay March 13, 2009

I have a very soft spot for 1401s (especially tiny little 8K ones like my first machine ever in the Air Force in 1962).

Cheers,

Alan


Side Saddle Printing" from Milton Thrasher

I knew Fran Underwood from my assignment to evaluate the IBM 1401 to see if its 1.4K memory was adequate to do useful work. Four of us Systems Engineers were involved: Bruce Campbell from IBM Boston was one of the others.

I was able to write a program in 2 days to do Yellow Page advertising billings with the same deck of cards that were used to print slips for the type setters without having to resort the cards. That application had taken me several months to wire for a 604 Calculating Punch and 407 Accounting Machine, both of which had to have extra memory to do it. It was exactly the proof they needed for a significant application.

Earl Bloom worked under Frank Underwood and developed the printer chain slugs for the IBM 1403 printer.

Earl was not aware of the “side saddle” printing approach I developed for printing 8 column listings per page of telephone number changes for the “Intercept Directories” at New Jersey Bell Telephone. Telephone operators were given printed lists of telephone number changes daily so that if you called a number that was changed, you would be routed to their switch board so that they could tell of the new number from their directory. I remember that Walter Smith was the IBM salesman for NJ Bell who brought the problem to me. I have copied him in hopes he can recall some other aspects to this solution.

The problem in printing the directory on the 8K IBM 1401 4 Tape System was that there was not enough memory for the 8 columns of from and to phone numbers on a page. A 16K IBM 1401 was either not available or too expensive. I had heard of a printer on the IBM 704 at Bell Labs that was able to do printing with wires at 90 degrees from normal So, I used that idea by turning the type slugs 90 degrees from the normal to print one column, then read in the next column and print it until the page was filled with 8 columns before advancing to the next page.

This approach allowed our IBM Newark, NJ office to sell some IBM 1401s. The idea was then circulated to other phone companies including NY Telephone where more IBM 1401s were sold.

I received a congratulatory and thank you letter from Tom Watson, Jr for this effort. It was at a time when IBM was looking for novel applications that helped sell equipment. This may have influenced my being promoted to Manager of Systems Engineering Techniques Development Manager in the Eastern Region at 425 Park Avenue, NY a few years later.


Foiling Honeywell "Liberator" from Milton Thrasher

I have a story about my shoe box full of IBM 1401 Autocoder macros that I called the “Captivator” because the Honeywell 200 “Liberator” program could not convert the IBM 1401 Autocoder created programs if they included the macros from my shoe box.

I got the macros from Ed Czerkies, an IBM 1401 Installation Manager at IBM Corp Headquarters at 590 Madison Avenue, NYC I circulated them all over North Jersey and the prevented a lot of Honeywell 200 sales.

UpdatingPunchedCards provided by Stan Paddock

PS: I got this story some 20 years ago from somebody who worked in the building where this happened.
A large insurance company in Boston was expanding their data processing section.

They brought in a girl from accounting to learn data processing.

Every insurance company had very large actuary tables. This girl's job was to make finite adjustments to this table. She was given the list, and shown how to find the punch card to change. She was asked if she knew how to change the card and she said yes.

A couple of months later, she stated she wanted to quit. She would give no reason for quiting and wanted to leave that day without the customary 2 weeks notice. Nobody could figure what happened to cause this immediate exit.

A few weeks later, they noticed the numbers were not coming out as expected.

When they evaluated the girl's changes, they found that she had pulled each card, erased the letters with an eraser, and neatly wrote in the new data.

When she realized what she had done wrong, she could not bare to face the embarrassment.


Ok, Another true story.

In a particular IBM 370 job shop, there was a job that always abended at the end of the job. While this did produce a memory dump, the job had completed correctly. With other irons in the fire, the programming group took their time fixing the problem.

The day after they fixed the problem, the user called up and said "Where is my numbers report?"

the Computer Wanted It

provided by Simon Wheaton-Smith via Judy Strebel
I offer for you my own story, humorous, and it linked the IBM 1401 and 306/30 in a "what hath Babbage wrought" context.

As background, my name is Simon Wheaton-Smith. I wrote the PATCHES spooling system for the 360 and SHADOW, later SHADOW II a teleprocessing system marketed by Altergo. I also wrote the ITT COurier Doomsday system of multi terminal diagnostics, and later the Computer Associates GDDM compatible graphics package....

Many years ago I worked at Thos Cook in Lonmdon. We had converted from the 1401 to a 32k 360/30. We used the 1401 emulator however when we converted from BOS to DOS (I wrote the BDOS converter also), the emulator was not an option. The available simulator from IBM that could run under DOS had no sterling feature so I wrote a 1401 simulator under DOS for the 360/30.

As time progressed and as we were converting from 1401 to 360 DOS and from BOS to DOS, we had a review of where we were and of our inefficiencies.

I asked Ron Bray, my boss, why computer supervisor Olive took a deck of cards every day, part of our foreign debits accounting system, and manually punched in stuff, and then manually wrote with a ball point pen syuff on the cards. This was about 100 cards a day. David Soal was the analyst, he said he had no idea.

My boss called Fred Taylor who was the operations manager and we met, he had no idea. He called Olive and asked her to bring the cards with her. I took one look and broke out laughing. The cards began in column 40 with a, "L", six digits, some "," and ended with "1040".

For many years, Olive had been doing something that "the computer wanted". It turns out that yeas earlier on the 1401 part of a self loading deck was left in a punch buffer, and the foreign debits program used gangpunching, and the self loading stuff wound up on the data cards, completely irrelevant and a mistake. But Beryl, the operator at the time, took them to Olive and said "the computer did it". Olive said "it must be important", so for many years, Olive decided to save the key punch girls the effort, and she manually reproduced faithfully that mistake. About 100 cards a day, 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year, and years.

Simon Wheaton-Smith MBCS, CITP


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