IBM Rochester QCC Newsletter -- March 2003

IBM ROCHESTER - the early years......

Following ten successful years, IBM Rochester looked to the future as Laboratory Director Richard Trachy announced a new creative development program for the laboratory.

The 1967 program, designed for employees with development ideas going beyond the scope of their general product responsibilities, encouraged technical creativity, stimulated greater management interest in innovative thinking, and speeded "direct line" communications in evaluating new ideas. As a result, technological frontiers that fell outside the bounds of funded projects could be explored and pursued when new ideas proved feasible.

Later that year, Rochester IBMers began engineering and manufacturing operations for a new high-performance data transmission terminal, the IBM 2780. The new terminal incorporated Binary Synchronous Communications (BSC), a teleprocessing method designed specifically for the IBM System/360 teleprocessing networks. With BSC tied into the 2780, the machine could transmit at speeds up to 400 characters per second.

As manufacturing operations increased, the manufacturing floor took on a new look. Forty-one enclosed offices were installed, providing quieter, more private surroundings for manager-employee communications. That same year, Rochester manufacturing engineering recorded an IBM first by developing a process for molding acrylic plastic into machine push buttons.

In October, Don Stephenson became the new Rochester laboratory director and Richard Trachy assumed responsibility for Advanced Unit Record Systems. Lee, Rita and the Modernettes capped off 1967 by entertaining over 5,000 children at the site's annual Christmas party.

National events crowded the headlines in 1968 as the war in Vietnam dragged on and President Lyndon B. Johnson announced with a "heavy heart" that he would not seek a second term as President. The country was shocked by the assassinations of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. and presidential candidate Robert Kennedy, but in Rochester, IBMers were exercising a spirit of confidence that led to several highlights in early 1968.

January marked the first customer shipment of the Rochester-developed 1287 Optical Reader, the first of its kind offered for commercial use. Another bright spot for the site was the national award of honor presented to IBM, citing Rochester as the "safest" plant of its kind in the nation during the last quarter of 1967. The award was a result of the plant's record 5,809,762 man-hours worked without a disabling injury.

Four months later, in May, a System/360 Model 40 was installed in the expanded systems and data processing computer room in building 001. The System/360 was installed for use by the plant in developing and implementing its part of a complex Manufacturing Information System for the Systems Manufacturing and Components Divisions and the World Trade Corporation. The new system coordinated all manufacturing operations in 17 plants worldwide.

With IBM Rochester's growing success, the site began an extensive expansion program in August. The expansion, scheduled for completion in mid-1969, included a 69,000 square-foot one-story field education center, building 109; a 65,000 square-foot two-story building, known as building 040; a 44,000 square-foot addition to building 105; and a 6,000 square-foot expansion of the power plant.

Site growth created the need for an additional 1,300 parking spaces and the site's perimeter road was moved 350 feet farther east to accommodate the new buildings. Upon completion, the site totaled nearly 1,200,000 square feet.

Only a month earlier the lab had announced the IBM 1288 Optical Page Reader. According to then 1288 program manager, Forrest Parry, the 1288 represented "a major advance in the art of optical reader development." It was the first ever developed in IBM to have full alphabetic-reading capability. It could read typewritten, machine-printed, numerical hand-printed, or pencil-marked documents.

In 1969, as the world looked on, the United States celebrated a golden moment in July when Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon. And Rochester IBMers were busy recording some "firsts" of their own. One event in particular would radically change Rochester's position in the data processing business.

The year opened with the installation of a 400-ton molding press that gave birth to a new era in plastics molding at Rochester. The manufacturing floor received a facelift in April as a part of an experiment in color. Machines in manufacturing were painted blue to contrast with the gray tones of the walls, ceilings, and floors.

Custom Systems manufacturing shipped a new product, the IBM 1907-5 Tape Terminal. July saw the announcement of the Rochester-developed IBM 2502 Card Reader, and the 1288 Optical Reader was shipped to its first IBM customer. The number of attendees at the Family Day Picnic grew to over 11,500.

Site expansion took a giant step forward as employees moved into the new laboratory building 040 and construction began on an additional 143,000 square-foot facility--building 030.

But all of these events were overshadowed by an announcement that was destined to give a new direction to Rochester's future. On July 30, 1969, 1,200 IBMers gathered to hear site, division, and corporate officials announce the new IBM System/3.

System/3 was the first totally Rochester-developed system and the most significant IBM product announcement since the introduction of the System/360 five years before. Rochester General Manager Bud Thue welcomed Frank T. Cary, then IBM senior vice president and general manager, Data Processing Group, to Rochester's "land of sky-blue waters," predicting that ''System/3 will help keep our skies blue."

To celebrate the announcement, Rochester IBMers danced to the melodic strains of Ralph Marterie and his orchestra in the brand-new building 105-A, the building where the System/3 would be manufactured.

Thue's words at the announcement were on target as System/3 became one of IBM's most successful and sustaining products. System/3 contained some major innovations, including a small punched card--about one-third the size of the traditional punched card, yet holding 20 per cent more information--and a new generation technology, Monolithic Systems Technology, which used more minute electronic components than any previous technologies available.

System/3's smaller punched card represented the first major innovation in the computer card in over 40 years. Cary said in his remarks to the jubilant gathering, "This is undoubtedly the greatest day at IBM Rochester since your dedication 11 years ago. Never in the history of IBM has a product been so carefully prepared for announcement as System/3."

Just two months later, IBM Chairman of the Board Thomas J. Watson, Jr., told employees during a visit to the site, "You've got a great product and you're getting a great reception in the marketplace." Watson attended a celebration of over 2,000 employees and guests in the Mayo Civic Arena to recognize the efforts and contributions of the entire Rochester team in developing what Watson termed "one of the greatest breakthroughs in the IBM company in years."

One of the most exciting periods in IBM Rochester's history began with the announcement in November of the newly-formed General Systems Division. In a public address announcement to Rochester employees, George B. (Spike) Beitzel, then IBM vice president and general manager, Data Processing Group, told his audience, "The company is establishing the General Systems Division to place a special focus on the low end of the product spectrum. The new division also places general management responsibility at the operating level."

Don Stephenson, formerly Rochester laboratory director and later advanced unit record systems manager, was named Rochester general manager.

Newly-appointed GSD President, C.B. (Jack) Rogers, said of the new organization, "I believe firmly in the concept of integrated management and know that this division will successfully integrate the functions of manufacturing and engineering for the low end of the product line."

Following the announcement of GSD was a reorganization at Rochester that merged the plant, lab, and support groups into one unified team. General Manager Don Stephenson outlined a new framework in which the organization was to be structured into four main functions-operations, headed by Howard T. (Chub) Stewart, manufacturing by Plant Manager George Groves, finance by Controller Metro Dowhy, and development by Laboratory Director Richard Trachy.

The organization realignment led the way into a new decade--the 1970s. The new year was not an exception when it came to increased floor space as IBM Rochester opened still another laboratory building-030. The new facility began housing employees in March 1970. It featured a lower-level cafeteria designed to seat 450 employees and sported floor-to-ceiling windows with a walkout terrace.

In 1970, the voting age was lowered to 18 in June and the Environmental Protection Agency was established in December to coordinate federal actions in controlling pollution and improving the environment.

Rochester IBMers were helping to build a new division and adding each day to an already highly respected reputation. The Corporation was awarded a contract by the U.S. Post Office Department in September for a pilot system to scan and sort machine-addressed mail at 24 envelopes per second. The Systems Development Division at Rochester was given responsibility for developing the system's Advanced Optical Character Reader. As efforts progressed, SDD solicited site employees for large volumes of mail to test the new AOCR.

October marked the announcement of IBM's System/7 and System/3 Model 6, both developed and manufactured at GSD-Boca Raton, Florida, Rochester's sister plant. Rochester's Advanced Unit Record Systems Programming group developed the powerful Report Programming Generator II programming language (RPG II) intended for commercial applications on the new System/3 model. Rochester efforts for the System/7 resulted in an optional air isolation feature that enabled air in the machine to be recycled, allowing System/7 to operate in a corrosive environment without impacting its electronics.

December brought a somewhat new look to the growing facility as an eight-bar IBM logo was installed east of the site, replacing the old identification sign that stood in the spot that is now building 050.

System/3 continued its successful trek in 1971, and Rochester celebrated System/3 week in March as six enhancements for the small computer were announced. They offered more options, higher speeds, and increased performance for the System/3 Model 10.

However, additions to a growing product line didn't stop there. GSD Rochester announced the IBM 3505 Card Reader and the IBM 3525 Card Punch. The 3505, IBM's fastest card reader, read data into a computer at 800 or 1,200 cards per minute. The 3525 offered three different punch speeds and, with the addition of a print feature, it could provide up to 25 lines of printing on a card. Both Rochester products were announced along with the System/370 Model 135.

Product mission transfers also played an important part in establishing Rochester's leadership within GSD. In April, the site assumed responsibility for manufacturing the IBM 5444 Disk Storage File, transferred from San Jose, and the keyboard assembly for the IBM 129 Card Data Recorder, brought in from Toronto. Production on the 5444 began in May in the System/3 manufacturing area, building 105.

A June storm of tornado proportions played havoc with three buildings on site as buildings 109, 105, and 030 suffered extensive roof and water damage. Scores of IBMers worked through the night of the storm mopping water and covering and moving machines, saving the buildings and equipment from even greater damage.

The last new 1260 Electronic Proof Inscriber left Rochester in September while the site celebrated the grand opening of Rochester's first word processing center. Chub Stewart cut the ribbon that officially opened the new center in the southeast corner of building 001. Operations and finance were the first functions on site to be served by this fresh approach to administrative support.

October brought the site a new general manager. Frank P. Silkman assumed leadership responsibilities in Rochester, succeeding Don Stephenson, who was named director of business planning at GSD headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. That same month Rochester announced the IBM 2596 Card Read-Punch, designed to read and punch small, 96-column cards used by System/3. The new machine made it possible for first-time System/360 and System/370 users to read and punch System/3-size cards.

Len Ciulla was named plant manager in November, replacing George Groves who assumed the position of assistant to the general manager.

Rochester and the General Systems Division closed out 1971 with an innovative, first-time announcement. A major realignment of GSD's manufacturing operations introduced a new manufacturing integration concept to GSD employees. Under the reorganization, Rochester was given responsibility for overseeing production operations both here and in Boca Raton.

By combining a number of indirect manufacturing operations and site support services at one location, the division could manufacture with greater efficiency and improved savings. Rochester absorbed the indirect manufacturing support responsibilities of Boca Raton whenever possible and assumed total manufacturing control on a division-wide basis.

We hope you enjoyed this new section...more to come in future QCC newsletters.

What's New Around the Rochester Site

What's New in the Quarter Century Club

What's New With You

Name: Bob Roos
Address: 804 140th Ave SE
Eyota, MN 55934

Date Inducted into QCC: 2/93

What's new:

I have done a few different things since I retired. I got into the restaurant business (1 Potato 2) in the mall for 8+ years. Then the mall decided they wanted Barnes & Noble more than potatoes so I got an opportunity to find a different line of work. My wife and I decided to do foster care and have been doing that for about a year and a half. It has been most rewarding. We now have 3 young men (15, 16 & 17) living with us. Our own children are grown (27, 29 & 31) and the house was just too quiet (HA!).

I enjoyed working with teens at the restaurant and wanted to continue finding a way to be helpful. I have a new perspective on life and it is fun to take a look at things through young eyes. We plan to continue for 5 to 10 more years and then really "retire". I am taking a Mentor Certification course at the Option Institute next month ( to learn how to be even more helpful to children in foster care, their parents and the foster parents.

I don't know if you have a place for this request or not or can just put it in line with my news:

One of the things that the guys would really like is a computer with internet access capability. I have a 266 Pentium II they have been using, but that is pretty tired lately. If anyone has a 500MHz system they wanted to donate I am sure the guys would really appreciate it.


Bob Roos

Fun Stuff

Tidbits and Reminders

QCC Contact Information

Minnesota Trivia Answers: 1) Minneapolis, 2) Fergus Falls, 3) Dick Stuart, 4) Richard Sears, 5) Civil War and Spanish-American, 6) State Capitol, 7) Roger Maris, 8) Wilbur Foshay, 9) Vermillion Range, 10) 573.


    IBM QCC Club - Dept J8L/005-1
    IBM Corporation
    3605 Highway 52 North
    Rochester, MN 55901