Return to 1401 Restoration Page

Early 1401 Software

Table of Contents:

Programming on the Engineering Prototype
From Dick Perkins - dickperkins @ sbcglobal . net
I had the "privilege?" of programming the 1401 in machine language for a sales project in the fall of 1959 while the machine was at the Glendale Lab near Endicott. The engineers were still hard at work on it but they let me get on it a few times each day to complete the project which was to see how fast we could print labels from punched cards. I was doing it for a firm called Donnellys that at that time maintained the largest mailing list in the country. It was all on punched cards and they used 407s to do the printing of the labels.

I was told at the time that I was the first person from the field to get access to the machine.

I would be happy to write up something about this three week "adventure" to add to your history of the machine if you think it would be interesting to have.

Dick Perkins

You bet! Most folks love a good story. (Even better if you have a photo of the fish to back it up ;-))

Sending 'em to the [1401_software] list or Robert Garner or Ed Thelen will get 'em here :-))
I even have a spell checker ;-)))

Gary Mokotoff commented

"You certainly were one of the first users of the 1401 if it was in the Fall of 1959. I donít think that SPS even existed at that time.

"I would be interested in reading your experiences.

"Gary Mokotoff"

Sacrifice a small slam ;-))
Jack Palmer, David Macklin and I will be having lunch in New York City this Monday for a "reunion." Jack was manager of the General Products Division Applied Programming Department (1401/1620) until it was transferred to Endicott in about 1962. David was Project Manager of various 1401 projects. I was a humble programmer. I have not seen Jack in 35-40 years.

I will take notes and maybe the three of us can recreate the history of that department,

Another quick story:

A bunch of us were in the habit of playing contract bridge during lunchtime in the employee lounge. One day we all got a memo from Jack, the gist of which was a reminder that IBM policy was that each employee was entitled to up to .75 hours for lunch and he would appreciate it if we limited ourselves to that time allotment "even at the sacrifice of a small slam"!

Gary Mokotoff

Early IBM 1401 General Purpose Programming, Dated: March 13, 2009, Revised:
Early IBM 1401 General Purpose Programming Dated: March 13, 2009 Revised:

     A recollection by Jack Palmer (John H.) of the names of IBM personnel who, working in New York City, planned and/or wrote the early general purpose programs for the IBM 1401, and some of the circumstances in which they worked.


     There existed in New York City from 1957 to 1961 a group of programmers writing general purpose programs for the low-end computers in IBMís product line. The IBM 1401 was one of those. The NYC group disbanded in 1961 in favor of the same function continuing at IBMís product development laboratories in Endicott NY and San Jose CA.


     The names of the programmers who wrote 1401 programs or parts thereof, and of those who wrote programs to facilitate that work, are listed in a companion report to this one, entitledAttachment to ďEarly IBM 1401 General Purpose Programming.Ē In the absence of definitive contemporaneous records, the list is based on my recollection and a scattering of documents.

The Beginning

     In early 1957 a number of disparate IBM programming groups were united at 425 Park Avenue in New York City into a single department named Applied Programming, charged with providing general purpose programming support for IBMís computer product line. Managers for specific machine groups were named: IBM 704/709, 702/705, 650. Soon a fourth group was added, managed by Arnold S. Wolf, for the IBM 305 RAMAC and IBM 610; the former was just entering production, while the latter was being readied for announcement. At the end of 1957, Wolfís group numbered some six or eight.

Growth, Reorganization, and 1401 Announcement

     Growth of the group accelerated in the year preceding the announcements of the 1401 and the 1620 in October 1959. In May of that year the company, in a decentralization move, split two new product divisions off from the single division that had had responsibility for both development and marketing/sales. The new divisions were named Data Systems Division (DSD) and General Products Division (GPD), dividing computer product line development responsibility at roughly the $10,000 monthly rental level -- DSD above, GPD below.

     Wolf became GPD Manager of Applied Programming, moved to division headquarters in White Plains NY, began a new programming research function managed by Julien Green, and left me to manage for him the continuing development in NYC, sharing space with the much larger DSD Applied Programming department. The two groupsí management lines now converged only at the companyís vice president level.

     The product announcements in October included specifications of those programs which were to be completed at the time of first shipment about a year later. I think the 1401 announcement included Report Program Generator (RPG), to be completed somewhat later. Autocoder and Fortran were also completed later -- I donít recall when they were announced.

     In November both divisionís programming groups moved to new quarters at the Time & Life Building at 1271 Avenue of the Americas. There was space for machine rooms, so that for the first time program testing could be done on the same premises where coding was done. An engineering model of the 1401 was installed in 1960 -- I donít recall when, probably at midyear.


     By the time shipments of the 1401 began in September or October 1960, the GPD Time & Life group numbered about two dozen individuals, variously assigned to the 1401, 1620, and 650, the latter for maintenance only. 305 RAMAC and 610 development and maintenance had ended. Three members were 709 programmers. They had developed a 1401 simulator and a Symbolic Programming System (SPS) assembler, both run on the 709, to facilitate development and testing in the absence of a 1401.

Winding Down

     GPD management determined in the fall of 1960 that the divisionís programming development activity should be located at the product development laboratories in Endicott NY and San Jose CA. There programmers would work side by side with the engineers and market planners in developing products, and report up to the same System Manager. DSD management took a different stand, believing that programming and operating system technologies were new enough that the divisionís workers in the field should have the opportunity to work and innovate together, physically and organizationally. And so DSD programmers remained at Time & Life, while GPD programmers were offered positions at the laboratories. Some accepted and moved to Endicott (1401) and San Jose (1620) on schedules that would not disrupt current projects. Others found new opportunity in the NYC area, e.g., in DSD Applied Programming, Julien Greenís research group, or headquarters marketing groups. The disbanding of the group proceeded incrementally throughout 1961.

Transition and Expansion

     I stayed on at Time & Life throughout the year, but now reported to James H. Frame, Programming Systems Manager for Processing Systems at the Endicott Laboratory. He had been a member of a small group of programmers advising engineers at that location during development of the 7070 (announced in September 1958) and the 1410 (announced in September 1960). I donít remember when he became its manager, but his group was the natural choice to take on programming maintenance and new development for Endicott laboratory products. The latter came to include new devices for the 1401, e.g., disk storage (1405) and low cost tape (7330), and new function, e.g., Cobol, and lastly new computer products, including the before mentioned 1410, the 1460 (announced in 1963), and notably the IBM 1440 (announced in October 1962), the product that introduced the removable disk pack (1311). (Development responsibility for the 7070 was transferred to the Poughkeepsie laboratory following the divisional reorganization in 1959. Responsibility for 1410 development followed, but much later, in 1961.)

     Frameís group also did the planning and implementing of the low-end programming support for System/360, which was first envisioned in late 1961 and announced in April 1964. Some of the components of that support were implemented at the San Jose laboratory. In about September 1964 Earl F. Wheeler became the groupís manager.

     The size of the organization required for these manifold tasks is illustrated by the Endicott Programming Systems organization chart dated 4/1/63. The ďfunctionalĒ organization (managers by program type rather than by specific computer product) is evident.

The End

     I remained in NYC with a diminishing staff until Autocoder and Fortran were completed. The end, transfer of the last individual, came in early 1962.

Return to 1401 Restoration Page