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Histories of our IBM 1401 Systems

IBM 1401 Demonstrator Jack Ghiselli mentioned that many guests were curious about the previous history of our two IBM 1401 systems, and the unit record equipment such as the key punches and sorter.

Robert Garner researched and responded.
- The Connecticut 1401 system "CT"
- The German 1401 system "DE"

The Connecticut 1401 system "CT"
Prompt from Jack Ghiselli
I know the CT machine was owned by Buzz Bellefleur. I met his son Scott a couple years ago at CHM.

The question is: Where was the system installed BEFORE Buzz?

One of the boxes has an internal paper label "GENESCO".

There is a company (General Shoe Company) in Nashville TN -- could this be where it was?

from Robert Garner

Yes, according to Buzz, documented here on his bio entry, his 1401 was originally owned by GENESCO:
In 1968 I started a personal business, "OK Data Services," focused on country club billing in Westchester and Fairfield Counties. I first rented time on a 1401, and in 1970, as the business grew, I installed a Univac 1004 in my home. In 1972, I acquired the 1401 system with four 729 tape drives for $25k from Genesco and installed it in the basement, along with a motor generator set for supplying the 3-phase AC power. The lights dimmed when the system was turned on! Later, I acquired another four tape drives and a spare 1403 printer and spare extended memory.
Searching our 1401 web site for “Genesco”, I see that the 1402 schematics and ECOs that Ken scanned show it being delivered to GENESCO in Nashville in 1963:

My recollection was that GENESCO was an insurance company.
Apparently not, but actually a “GENEral Shoe Company!"

The German 1401 system "DE"
Prompt from Jack Ghiselli
I know the DE machine was owned by Arnold Schweinberg, and later his son Rolf. The question is: Where was it installed BEFORE? We usually fuzz this question, saying "probably some German insurance company". One of the shots on the video loop shows a partial label "Victoria Lebensvehr.....". Could this be the life insurance company "Victoria Lebensversicherung" in Düsseldorf? That's about 100 km from Hamm, Germany where Arnold had the machine.

from Robert Garner

In July last year, our restoration volunteer Tom Szolyga related to me that when he was examining a 1401 in the CHM’s Yosemite warehouse that came with the European SAP collection about a decade ago, it has the “Victoria Lebensvers...” label (dated 9/20/1968), his photo here:

It had always bothered me why there’s a mistaken shipping label for our German 1401 in the video that runs in our Demo Lab…
… (that, btw, I had a large hand in producing), although I’ve guessed that it was from a 1401 in the warehouse.
Well now I/we definitely can say for sure which system it’s from (and certainly not for Arnold’s German 1401.)

From Arnold’s bio..

1401 CPU, build 05/1964 working for an insurance company till 1972, after that moved to Arnold's Data Processing Center (Newspapers and Magazines) until 1977, then stored in a warehouse and sometimes displayed on exhibitions. The last show was in the lobby at the IBM Branch Office at Dortmund, Germany.
(It seems odd that the 1402 was delivered in 1963 and the CPU "built” in 1964. Perhaps Arnold was off by a year there?)

From my 1401 writeup:

     Original owner: Volkswohl Versicherung (“People’s Welfare”) Insurance Company, in the town of Dortmund, Germany. Used for financial control and insurance policies. Operated round-the-clock, 24/7 until 1972. Its IBM customer engineer (CE) was Arnold Schweinberg.
     Second owner: Arnold Schweinberg purchased the 1401 for his own accounting services company catering to small businesses such as newspaper and magazine publishers and companies under 100 employees. He operated the machine in two 8-hour shifts per day until 1977. He then stored it in a shipping company warehouse for 11 years until 1988 and then moved it to his home automobile garage in the hamlet of Hamm, Germany where it was stored for another 16 years until 2004.
     Arnold listed the system on in May 2003, where it was spotted by Eric Smith, a Museum volunteer. Arnold, contacted by Mike Cheponis, a Museum volunteer, enthusiastically supported a proposition that it be purchased, donated, and restored at the Computer History Museum. Robert Garner, a Museum volunteer, began the evaluation process, including an on-site inspection by an old-time IBM colleague he was working with (Heinz Lenk). Via aggregation of several personal donations, the 1401 was purchased in October 2003 for €18,000.
Thanks for asking! :)

— Robert

Updated through March 1, 2023