IBM's 3033

"The Big One": IBM's 3033

Back when Jimmy Carter was the newly inaugurated President of the United States, the industry publication Datamation termed it "the big bombshell" of IBM's spring product announcements. THINK magazine later simply dubbed it -- "The Big One."

The two publications were referring to the IBM 3033, the company's new top-of-the-line processor. When it was rolled out on March 25, 1977, the 3033 eclipsed the internal operating speed of the company's previous flagship -- the System/370 Model 168-3 -- by 1.6 to 1.8 times. Not only that, the 3033 featured as standard a high speed buffer storage double the size on the 168-3.

Whereas the Model 168 had required 40 months to evolve from development to initial shipment, the 3033 was shipped to its first customer after only 28 months in development.

In today's terms, the 3033 would be considered the equivalent of a very, very large PC. But 25 years ago, when the 3033 first took center stage, it offered large system users significant advancements and benefits in price/performance. It was almost twice as fast as its predecessor and it required less than half the space of a similarly configured 168-3. Complex scientific applications and commercial operations, such as online financial networks, could be handled more efficiently thanks to the 3033's higher capacity and increased computing power.

For example, the 3033's first customer -- Singer Company -- which processed more than 80,000 computing jobs a month at its corporate data center in Wayne, N.J., found that its new 3033 immediately provided greater computing capability at then prevailing cost levels while at the same time supporting the introduction of future data processing applications, such as a company-wide online reporting system.

Rapid advances in technology -- delivered to customers in such follow on products as the IBM 3084 of 1982 -- soon overtook the 3033's premier place in the high-end product lineup, and it was withdrawn from marketing in 1985. But, for a time, in the late-1970s, the 3033 really was the "Big Boy on the Block."

To learn more about this significant product, visit the 3033 Reference room.

3303 details