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Icons of Progress

IBM 1401: The Mainframe


The IBM 1401 Data Processing System—and its printer peripheral, the IBM 1403—could easily be considered the computer heard round the world. By today’s standards, this machine was cumbersome but the 1401 system was the first computer to travel the world solving data processing problems. While the 1400 series was first released in 1959, it continued to be a popular workhorse up into the 1970s, and remains a culturally inspirational machine to this day.

Social impacts of the 1401

The IBM 1401 system made its way into the collective consciousness of technicians, business people and ordinary citizens around the world. It quickly moved from an idea in a laboratory in upstate New York, to a global icon of productivity and the untapped possibilities of technology.


IBM 1401 in the arts

While primarily viewed as paragons of technological progress, the 1401 computer and its accompanying 1403 chain printer also struck a creative chord in the general public, making appearances in classic pieces and inspiring the creation of beautiful works of art.