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Icons of Progress

The IBM 700 Series

Computing Comes to Business

The IBM 701 was developed in just two years with the input of many IBMers. Even more people contributed to the development of the later models in the IBM 700 series.

  • Thomas J. Watson Jr.

    Thomas Watson Jr

    Thomas Watson Jr. directed the IBM engineering and research organization to develop what became the IBM 701 Defense Calculator, and his early recognition of the need for mass-produced electronic computers sped the development of the IBM 701. Watson became president of IBM in January 1952, the year the company announced the 701, which featured the first magnetic tape storage system.

  • James Birkenstock 

    James Birkenstock

    James Birkenstock joined IBM as a salesman in 1935. He was director of product planning and market analysis, and one of the top advisors to Thomas Watson Jr. on the commercial possibilities of the IBM 701. He also served as IBM general sales manager and manager of the future demands department. In late 1950, he set out to visit defense and aircraft firms to determine their requirements and the potential for a machine that would be useful in building aircraft, designing jet engines and performing other technical applications requiring many repetitive operations. When he retired in 1973, he was vice president of commercial and industry relations.

  • Bob O. Evans 

    Evan’s portrait

    B. O. Evans, an electrical engineer, joined IBM in September 1951 to work on the Defense Calculator project. He quickly evolved into a kind of roving troubleshooter for 701 installations. In 1973, he said of his work on the 701: “It was the most exciting thing I ever did—bar none.” In the 1960s, Evans convinced Thomas Watson Jr. to move away from developing incompatible systems to producing a line of general-purpose, compatible computers. This led to the development of the IBM System/360 line of computers. In 1977, IBM named Evans senior vice president for engineering, programming and technology.

  • Jerrier A. Haddad 

    Jerrier Haddad

    Jerrier Haddad began his IBM career in July 1945. He was charged with the complete technical and executive responsibility for the IBM 701 development and design program. The technical responsibility included system design, circuit design and the effect of each of those functions on the machine. His responsibility included the management and supervision of some 200 highly skilled engineers and technical people, and the scheduling and coordination of all of their efforts. He shared overall responsibility for the engineering program with Nathaniel Rochester. From 1977 until he retired in 1981, he was IBM vice president of technical personnel development.

  • Nathaniel Rochester 

    Nathaniel Rochester

    Nathaniel Rochester joined IBM in November 1948 as an associate engineer. He coordinated the work of the Poughkeepsie Engineering Planning Group, and in cooperation with the Planning Group from the Applied Science Division, he developed firm specifications for the Defense Calculator. He developed outstanding planning and system specifications, including arithmetic functions and logical operations, for the design of the machine. Rochester’s ability to prepare programs and test these programs on paper saved much valuable time. He led the effort to prepare utility sub-programs to facilitate the use of the IBM 701 by IBM and its clients. He was named an IBM Fellow in 1967.

  • Cuthbert C. Hurd 

    Cuthbert Hurd

    Cuthbert Hurd joined IBM in 1949. He formed, and was director of, the IBM Applied Science Division. He was also a key advisor to Thomas Watson Jr. on the development of the IBM 701 machine. He assessed military computing requirements and was instrumental in applying those requirements to a single machine. Dr. Hurd later became director of the IBM Electronic Data Processing Machines Division.

  • James Weidenhammer 

    James Weidenhammer earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. He joined IBM in June 1938 as a development engineer in the Endicott Laboratory. In 1949, he transferred to Poughkeepsie, NY, where he was responsible for the design and development of the magnetic tape mechanical motion system used in the IBM 701. He also was responsible for the electromechanical features of the entire tape frame design. As he searched for ways to speed the start-stop motion of the tape, he and his team tried many options. Through these experiments, he and Walter Buslik developed the vacuum column, for which they received a patent. Their vacuum column made it possible for the magnetic tape drive to work.

  • Ralph L. Palmer 

    Ralph Palmer

    Ralph Palmer joined IBM in 1932, and became manager of the Poughkeepsie Engineering Laboratory in 1939. He was a top advisor to Thomas Watson Jr. on the development of the IBM 701. Following the successful completion of that project, Mr. Palmer was made director of engineering in 1954, and he was named an IBM Fellow in 1963.

  • W. Wallace McDowell 

    W. Wallace McDowell

    W. Wallace McDowell was director of engineering, and one of the top advisors to Thomas Watson Jr. on the development of the IBM 701. He joined IBM in 1930, and after a brief sales career, he was assigned to the Endicott, NY, plant as a designer in the engineering laboratory. Following the 701 roll out, McDowell was elected an IBM vice president in July 1954.

  • Gene Amdahl 

    Amdahl portrait

    Gene Amdahl completed a degree in engineering physics at South Dakota State University in 1948, and went on to complete his doctorate in theoretical physics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1952. He joined IBM in June 1952, where he worked on the IBM 704, the IBM 709, and then the Stretch project, the basis for the IBM 7030. He later worked on the IBM System/360 family architecture, became an IBM Fellow in 1965, and head of the ACS Laboratory in Menlo Park, California.