the early '60 IBM Germany started a project with the
codename "TINY". The idea was to develop a
computer for the small customers. This system had a small punchcard and
"TINY" was later announced as the IBM
withdraw this system quickly from
marketing when serious problems surfaced with the cardreader. For more
history details of this
system please read this interview with Ralph Mork.
The early end of this system was not the end IBM's idea to
develop a small system for the lower end
of the market.
Mid '60 Larry Wilson developed a prototype of the 3.7 system with Roy
Harper (electronic) and
Greg Tobin (mechanical) of the San Jose Lab.
In early 1966, it was decided that
the experimental program be developed in San Jose should be moved
from that location. After
some study the program was moved to
Rochester. Larry was not convinced that
Rochester had the technical capability to to undertake a total system
Dick Trachy invited Larry to
move temporarily to Rochester at Rochester's expense.
He did and was given an office in the lab area near
Harry Tashjian whom was the appointed project manager. In only
a few weeks, Larry notified Dick that
he was satisfied that Rochestor could handle the project and he
moved back to San Jose.
Development work continued using the
name project 3.7 which
had been coined by Larry.
The design goals were quite simply in concept but not easily to
Rochester had to develop a stored
program data processing system that satisfy
Unit Records customers at a price that would be competitive
with the existing equipment and offer more capability. Most of these
customers are small business companies
with limited resources.
The introduction of the small card to replace the 80 column card which
was a standard
unit record media was
key to the program primarily because of the huge maintenance costs of
the 80 column card machines and
their large size.
Work continued on the project through 1966. Early in 1967 a task force
was formed consisting of key people
from all IBM divisions, including World
Trade, that would be impacted by the introduction of the system in
place. The task force spent about 3 weeks in Rochester examining all
aspects of the program.
They recommended continuation of the program.
In October 1967, the development program responsibilities were
consolidated under a Systems manager
Dick Trachy, who was responsible for all aspects of the development
and announcement of the system.
Reporting to him was Harry Tashjian in charge of Engineering, Bob
Webster, in charge of Programming and
Carl Gebhardt in
of Product Planning, which included forecasting, pricing etc.
Here is a very
nice picture of the IBM System/3 development team.
Many other key contributors are not in the
picture due to reassignments and were not present in Rochester at
the time the photograph was taken.
Some sources state that IBM HQ was
not fully aware what was developed at Rochester.
Here is Dick Trachy's comments on this rumor:
""IBM HQ was well
aware of our program. Frank Cary was Group executive at
the time and all systems development
in the company
reported to him. I met with
he personally, and with his staff, weekly reviewing all aspects of the
resolving problems between divisions as they arose. The question of
compatibility came up often and
was always resolved.
There were dissenters on this question as well as others. In
particular, the issue of the use of a
new media, the
small card, came up several
times. It was considered to be a major problem by the Sales
than one study was made during the course of development on both
The commercial name of the 3.7 system became "IBM
System/3". The old project name can still be seen
left under on the punch
card: "IBM 3700".
was chosen after considerable work with the domestic and world trade
IBM considered numbering the system with a four letter number
like the larger systems. This was rejected in favor of
the format that was
finally chosen. “System/7” was popular because we were entering the 70s
because a 7 is written differently in world trade countries it was
"3" was selected because the system
had 3 main components: CPU, Printer
and Card Reader.
Two S/3 models (a card and a disk system) where
built by IBM, one
was used for product testing to
support announcement. The system was designed with the
More history details can be found in Emerson W. Pugh, Lyle R. Johnson
and John H. Palmer book
IBM's 360 and Early 370 Systems (MIT
Press, Cambridge, 1991) pages 443
The system was officially announced by IBM on 30
July 1969 in United States. Announcement in IBM World Trade
came later in the year.
the technical information released by IBM on the announcement date.
- IBM 5410
Model 10 Central Processing Unit
- IBM 5424
Multi Functional Card Unit (aka MFCU)
- IBM 5203
- IBM 5444
- IBM 5440
- IBM 5471
- IBM 5475 Data Entry Keyboard
- IBM 5486
Card Sorter (offline)
- IBM 5496
An 12 minute System/3
promotion movie, shot late 1968, can be seen here: Part 1 and Part 2.
Here are some nice model pictures of a pre-production S/3: Pic
1 , Pic 2 & Pic 3.
This rare picture
was taken during the press announcement when all the
focus of the photographers was on the new hardware.
was the card deck for the RPG-II compiler.
point for the card system was 4K storage size.
They almost made
that but found it impossible. So IBM opted for 8K.
This System/3 Card System was managed by Donald J.
Here are two press reaction, one from Datamation
after the S/3 announcement (published on the 15th september
and one from Design (published
On 28 October 1969 IBM announced the IBM 5406 System/3 model 6
developed at Boca Raton.
The model 6 was the only model that had BASIC and was developed under
supervision of Glenn Henry.
This effort was originally intended for new small scientific
computer, a follow on to the IBM 1130, but was
to use the S/3 model 6.
In 1969 a scientific oriented machine was developed in
San Jose and one day the developemnt
team was told that
hardware had been canceled and that they had to use a new
machine being developed in Rochester.
The move of the BASIC project to the mod 6 was a real shock.
Don Kastella visited the team and give a presentation about
the S/3. The group couldn't believe what
they were hearing,
a slow memory-to-memory architecture with no registers, a
byte-wide datapath, etc.
That is, the direct opposite type of architecture they were
working on. To put scientific-oriented software on it
sounded impossible at first. But, then the challenge became a
motivator for the group, make a good BASIC system in
spite of the feeble hardware. The whole group was transferred
to Boca Raton to do the project.
Of course, it turned out that the S/3 architecture was fine and the
BASIC software ran well on the Model 6.
On January 23 1970 the first IBM System/3
was delivered to Lasko Metal Products, Inc., in West
The IBM System/3 was produced at Rochester
(Italy), Fujisawa (Japan) and Boca Raton
Here are some good articles of the IBM
Rochester lab and plant history and at the IBM Archives.
This article gives a very good timeline overview of IBM Rochester
at the Rochester QCC