Sunday, January 10, 2010

The IBM 1401 Computer

Update: I reformatted the video to show the full 16:9 video screen.

My brother works for IBM.  He sent me a link to a video that IBM made to celebrate the building of the IBM 1401 computer.  The picture at left is the control panel for the computer. The 1401 was an all-transistor, medium-sized computer that was one of IBM's most successful products.  Over 20,000 of the systems were manufactured between 1959 and 1971.  The computer could be configured with up to 32K of memory, although most were sold with only 8K or 16K on board.  IBM leased the machines rather than sold them, which was typical of their business model.  According to the company, by 1961, one in four computers in the United States was an IBM 1401.

I really enjoyed the video.  It focuses on the people and their evident pride in what they had accomplished so many years ago.  It reminded me once again of Warren Bennis' work on Great Groups which I blogged about a year ago when I was writing about Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project.  One of the essential features of a Great Group is that it cannot last.  It is a moment in time in which people come together to accomplish something extraordinary.  That seems to have been the case with this IBM team.  The pride these people continue to feel is palpable.  Maybe, if we are lucky, we will also be part of a Great Group.  The memories last a lifetime.

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