Supplies Division history

The Electric Accounting Machine (EAM) Supplies Division was made an autonomous operating unit within IBM in March 1956, and was responsible for miscellaneous data processing materials, such as punched cards and magnetic tapes, used in connection with various types of IBM equipment. Robert Y. Cadwallader was named as the division’s first general manager.

The EAM Supplies Division initially had approximately 1,700 employees and handled the manufacture and development of all supplies for IBM electric accounting machines and electronic computers. (IBM’s supply business had been handled previously by the EAM Division.) Punched card manufacturing plants of the Supplies Division were located in Washington, D.C.; Greencastle, Ind.; Endicott, N.Y.; and San Jose, Calif. A Magnetic Tape Testing Center (organized in March 1955) was located in Minneapolis, Minn.


To further improve its service to customers, the Supplies Division dedicated a new card plant, serving the Southwest United States, in Sherman, Tex.; opened another plant at Dayton, N.J.; broke ground for another plant at Concord, Mass.; and acquired land at Campbell, Calif., for the future relocation of its card manufacturing facility in San Jose, Calif.

The Supplies Division introduced the Port-A-Punch on February 10 as a fast, accurate means of manually punching holes in specially scored IBM punched cards. Designed to fit in the pocket, Port-A-Punch made it possible to create punched card documents anywhere.

In April, the division moved its card engineering organization based in Endicott, N.Y., to a new 53,000 square foot laboratory in Vestal, N.Y.


The Supplies Division added several new items to its product line, including a “carbonless” paper used in sets of punched cards and eliminating carbon paper inserts, and “Durexcel” magnetic computer tape. In addition, the division opened the 20,000 square foot card plant in Concord in January, and began construction of a new card plant in Campbell.

James E. Swaine, Jr., was named as the division’s general manager on May 25.


In January, the SD Supplies Center was moved from Vestal to Dayton, N.J.

In February, SD realigned its manufacturing organization, creating a new post of manager, card manufacturing.

In March, the SD Engineering Laboratory in Vestal was realigned into six functional areas: product development, equipment engineering, materials and processes, engineering services, material and equipment procurement, and program management.

In May, the Data Processing Division assumed full responsibility for marketing Supplies Division products. Also that month, the division moved to new headquarters at 717 Fifth Avenue in New York City.

In July, the move of card manufacturing from San Jose to Campbell was completed with no interruption in customer service.

In October, SD reported that its card production in Endicott would be transferred to other Supplies Division locations by October 1961.

In November, the division introduced a new line of ribbons for special data processing applications.

Altogether in 1960, the division opened a new card design center in Houston, Tex., and five new warehouses in Omaha, Neb.; Des Moines, Ia.; St. Louis, Mo.; Syracuse, N.Y.; and Rochester, Minn. As a result, punched card users could discuss their more intricate card design requirements with IBM experts at 19 U.S. locations and receive prompt deliveries from a nationwide network of 21 IBM card manufacturing plants and warehouses.


The Supplies Division put a number of new products into production including, on March 6, paper bank checks imprinted with magnetic ink characters (SD had been manufacturing punched card checks encoded with magnetic ink characters since September 1959).

The division’s product line was broadened in October by the introduction of Hypertape.

Development work on new supplies was carried out during the year at the division’s engineering laboratories at Poughkeepsie and Vestal.

On November 2, general manager James E. Swaine, Jr., announced a contract for the construction of the division’s new headquarters building in Dayton, N.J. Construction of the 25,000 square foot facility began immediately, with completion scheduled for September 1962. More than 100 people were assigned to the new facility, most of whom were relocated from the division’s headquarters in New York City.

In 1961 the Supplies Division manufactured punched cards, magnetic tapes and other supplies used with IBM accounting machines and DP systems. It operated card plants in Campbell, Concord, Dayton, Greencastle, Sherman and Washington, as well as a Magnetic Tape Center in Minneapolis, and laboratories in Poughkeepsie and Vestal. Card manufacturing at Endicott was phased out in April, five months ahead of schedule. (IBM had begun manufacturing punched cards in Endicott in 1923.) According to its general manager at the start of 1962, the Supplies Division had just completed the greatest year in its history.


Early in the year, IBM received an award to produce millions of punched card sets for the new Department of Defense MILSTRIP system, a unified standard requisitioning system for nearly three million items from shoelaces to missile parts.

The division’s Washington plant celebrated its 20th year of producing U.S. Savings Bonds.

In May, the division reported that its Greencastle plant manufactured and shipped more products per day than any other IBM plant. An average of more than two million pounds of products were shipped to customers across the United States, and billings and shipments numbered well into the hundreds each day.

On July 31, in the midst of preparations for the opening the next day of the Eastern Tape Center in Poughkeepsie, SD’s new facility shipped its first order -- to an IBM customer in Virginia who needed magnetic tape within 24 hours to complete inventory operations on an IBM 1401 data processing system. Two days later, IBM formally announced that the Supplies Division had established a magnetic tape testing center in Poughkeepsie that would serve data processing systems users in 19 eastern states.

SD said in October that its Product Development Laboratory had developed and would manufacture the ribbon for the IBM 1443 printer that would be used with the new IBM 1440 data processing system.

During the year, SD moved into its new headquarters in Dayton.


By 1963, the Supplies Division’s responsibilities were redefined as "providing punched cards, magnetic tapes, ribbons and other supplies for use with data processing machines."

In February, ribbon manufacturing swung into full-time production at the SD plant in Dayton. (The lifetime of the IBM 1403 ribbon seemed almost ageless. After a 1403 printer had printed an average 1.5 million-word volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica more than a dozen times on one ribbon, that ribbon would still be going strong.)

On April 29, SD introduced the IBM Micro-Processing System, the first time the division manufactured equipment to support the sale of supplies.

On May 21, three new SD products were introduced: nylon ribbons for the IBM 1403 printer; a new ribbon, 27 yards long, for the IBM 407 accounting machine; and an endorsing roll for the IBM 1201 proof enscriber which provided for approximately 375,000 endorsements.

During the year, two major new paper documents were announced: data sheets designed for test scoring and various commercial applications such as order-entry; and data sheets designed for use with optical scanning data equipment. Those forms were produced by SD’s Greencastle plant.


The division’s mission was broadened to include paper forms and the new line of micro-image equipment (the IBM Micro-Processing system). The six card plants were producing billions of punched cards annually.

In January, supplies marketing responsibility was transferred back to the Supplies Division from the Data Processing Division.

On February 3, SD announced a new tape reel with an aluminum hub.

In May, the White House announced a new $75 Savings Bond -- which SD’s plant in Washington helped to design and produce -- bearing the likeness of the late President John F. Kennedy.

On June 4, Frank H. McCracken was named general manager of the Supplies Division, succeeding James E. Swaine, Jr.

In July, a clean room was completed at the division headquarters annex building where data cells for the IBM 2321 data cell drives would be assembled.

In August, SD opened a card manufacturing facility at the Minneapolis Tape Center for the production of 80-column, general purpose cards.

In September, the Eastern Tape Center in Poughkeepsie was consolidated with Minneapolis.

In October, the Greencastle plant celebrated its 10th anniversary.

On December 1, the division announced that IBM had adopted round corners as a regular feature on IBM general purpose punched cards. (Virtually all punched cards had been manufactured with square corners since 1890. ) On December 4, the division announced four microfilm products (copier/reproducer, diazo film copier, viewer/printer and planetary camera) -- two unique in industry -- that gave IBM’s Micro-Processing equipment a new systems capability for automating information processing.


On March 19, the IBM Votomatic was added to the division’s portfolio. Developed by Dr. Joseph P. Harris at the University of California, the six-pound, briefcase-size device used the principle of a punched card voting system to compile the results of opinion polls, market surveys, tests and other reports.

By August, the division was marketing more than 100 different continuous paper forms.

On October, the Supplies Division introduced a document processing system that electronically controlled the size and shape of paper reports as they were printed by a computer. That same month, division president McCracken announced a broader product scope and a new mission for SD: “the development, manufacture and marketing of products and services pertaining to the entry, storage, distribution, retrieval and display of information not computer controlled.” He said the Supplies Division would perform a records management service -- helping customers to effectively organize and manage the total information flow to their operations.

In December, the division announced the future construction of an 85,000-square-foot tape development and pilot manufacturing facility in Boulder, Colo., to be completed in mid-1966.

All told, SD announced 11 new products in 1965.


On January 12, the Supplies Division opened a new education center in Princeton, N.J., to train sales representatives, field engineers and customers.

By late-February, the first six Micro-Copier Reproducers manufactured by SD had been shipped from Vestal and were installed in customer facilities.

The Supplies Division was renamed the Information Records Division on March 21, with Frank H. McCracken becoming IRD’s first president.