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Icons of Progress

IBM 1401: The Mainframe

No product, idea, or achievement is possible without our most critical asset—the collective thought capital of hundreds of thousands of IBMers. The expertise, technical skill, willingness to take risk, and overall dedication of IBM employees have led to countless transformative innovations through the years. Meet team members who contributed to this Icon of Progress.

  • Francis Underwood 

    Francis Underwood
    "Father of the 1401"

    After brief stints in the U.S. Navy and as a toolmaker, Underwood joined IBM in 1948 as a customer engineer where he learned how to build and test every product in the IBM line. After designing two new products from scratch, Fran was quickly offered a job as design engineer. In 1956, he joined Endicott's Advanced Systems Development Department (ASDD) and would later become the chief architect of the IBM 1401 system—one of IBM's most successful, early transistorized products. Shortly after the 1401 system’s release, Fran transferred to the San Jose lab in 1961 to co-develop the IBM 1800 process control computer and an audio/visual instructional terminal—the forerunner to the floppy disk. A two-year leave from IBM ended with Fran returning to San Jose to coordinate engineering development of the IBM 3800 laser printer. Fran officially retired from IBM in 1988; he was an avid aerobatic biplane pilot, skilled watercolor artist and holds six U.S. patents.

  • Charles Branscomb 

    Charles Branscomb

    Charles Branscomb spent 39 years at IBM, where he developed and managed several successful products, including the IBM 1401 Data Processing System, the IBM System/360 and several mid-range systems. Charles joined the IBM Endicott, NY, lab in August 1950, to design punched card handling and unit record products. In 1957, he became area manager for accounting machines where he would direct the development of the groundbreaking IBM 1401 system. After various executive positions, in 1966, Branscomb was named president of the Systems Development Division with eight U.S. labs and six European labs, managing delivery and expansion of the System/360 product line. In 1974, Branscomb became vice president of development and manufacturing of the General Systems Division in Atlanta, and became responsible for System/32, System/34, System/38, Series/1 and the IBM PC. After his retirement in 1986, Charles spent more than a dozen years volunteering at North Carolina State University with two adjunct appointments in its College of Engineering.

  • Jim Ingram 

    After obtaining his master's degree in electrical engineering from Purdue University, Jim Ingram joined the IBM Endicott, NY, lab in 1950. Ingram first worked on the IBM 650 Magnetic Drum Data Processing Machine, from early development through early production stages. Jim participated in the WWAM meeting in Germany in 1955. In mid-1957, Jim was assigned to the 1401 system, then in its early planning stages, and he eventually became the project manager as the program progressed. In early 1963, Ingram began work for IBM’s Nordic Lab in Sweden as manager of the IBM 1070 Process Communication System. This system was transferred in early 1964 to IBM’s San Jose Lab, and was announced as part of the System/360 in April 1964. Shipments started about a year later. Jim Ingram retired from IBM in 1987.

  • Sheldon Jacobs 

    Sheldon Jacobs

    Sheldon “Shel” Jacob spent 38 years at IBM, where he was a planning manager for many successful midrange computer products, including the IBM 1401 system. Shel joined IBM as a sales representative in the downtown Chicago sales office in 1952, and moved to Endicott, NY, in 1957 as a planner for the IBM 1401 Data Processing System. It was in Endicott that Shel established the field case studies and classes that played a critical role in developing a business case to support the 1401 system's announcement. In 1960, Shel took a planning manager position in San Jose, supporting the 1401-compatible IBM 1440 Data Processing System. In 1962, Shel became a consultant in IBM Corporate Marketing in Armonk, NY, evaluating products and outside proposals. In 1965, he returned to San Jose to work on various planning jobs for Direct Access Storage Devices (DASD), including the IBM 3340 disk unit. He retired from IBM in 1990, and now spends his time volunteering in his community.

  • Justin McCarthy 

    Justin "Jud" McCarthy

    Justin “Jud” McCarthy was a member of the 1401 product development team, involved in the development of the first transistorized units in the Endicott Glendale Lab.

  • Ralph G. Mork 

    Ralph Mork was the original manager of the Worldwide Accounting Machine program (WWAM). Mork was responsible for bringing Fran Underwood onto the project that would become the 1401 system.

  • Eugene Darrow 

    Eugene Darrow was the manager of product engineering responsible for the 1403 printer. He also worked with the 1403 team, interfacing with the printer user groups.

  • Jonas Dayger 

    Jonas Dayger was the area manager for print development, whose team produced the 1403 printer, a tape-to-print machine with its own control unit.

  • Fred M. Demer 

    Fred Demer invented chain printing. Demer’s revolutionary idea of horizontal type movement resulted in the 1403 printer, which was so critical to the 1401 system’s success.