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Icons of Progress

IBM 1401: The Mainframe


Historians and technical experts have made countless sweeping statements about the dawn of the digital age, but one could easily claim that it began in Endicott, NY, in 1959, when a team of IBM engineers finally solved a problem that had vexed the world for years. By providing thousands of businesses with the world’s first electronic, stored program computer that could replace punched card information processing systems, the IBM ® 1401 Data Processing System changed business—and industry—forever.

Changing how the world processes information

In the 1950s, it was unimaginable that a single machine could perform many functions that businesses today take for granted—calculations used in accounting, statistical tabulation used in financial projections and risk management, inventory control, bookkeeping and reporting. The 1401 Data Processing System achieved them electronically in one machine. With the addition of the IBM 1403 printer to aid in internal and customer record-keeping, the increase in productivity and resulting cost savings to companies and governments were great.