COMPUTER MEMORIES, Chapter 11
STORED PROGRAM COMPUTERS
As time went on, we installed an IBM CPC (Card Programmed Computer). The CPC was, in a way, a stored program computer, with each line of program code stored on a card that was read by an IBM Tabulator. The information was then fed into intermediate storage in a couple of little boxes of memory, each about the size of a small refrigerator, that each stored 16, 10 digit numbers.
When calculation was needed, data was sent to and from an IBM calculating unit, with answers being punched by a card punch machine. I remember at night, as we were going home, sometimes they would load a handful of cards into the hopper, and when we arrived in the morning, sometimes the hopper was still not empty.
The IBM equipment used in the CPC, were originally called the 402, 604, 415, 513, etc., they were modified and renumbered for this combination, I think.
That’s really a little more than I actually remember about that system. Fletcher Jones, the founder of Computer Sciences Corp. a few years later, worked here at the same time I did. I knew of him, but never worked closely with him.
We soon installed an IBM 650, about the first stored program computer that could be ordered from the IBM sales manual, and the first stored program machine I learned to program. The 650 stored its program on a drum, the same storage medium where data was stored. That drum held either 1,000 or 2,000, 10 digit numbers, or one program instruction. The program was loaded from punch cards, one instruction per card.
Up to then I had done data reduction of missile test firings, production control for building jet fighters, and we wrote 10,000 paychecks a week, using an IBM 604 with, as I remember, 32 characters of memory. No one could imagine what anyone would ever do with 2,000 words of memory. A problem that would need 2,000 10-digit words (numbers), was just out of sight.
Although the 650 computer was in another part of the IBM Room, the part reserved for engineers, I insisted on attending a programming class at the local IBM office, my introduction to stored programs.
About this time I attended a presentation given by IBM, telling about a high-speed computer, called the IBM 701 . I remember that the head of production control was sitting next to me, and asked the question, “If these machines are so fast, why do I have to wait so long for my reports?” Of course I didn’t have an answer. His question was just about 20 years ahead of the industry’s answer.
I had borrowed a couple of hundred dollars from my brother to buy our first house, a two bedroom place that cost $7,500. In order to repay the money he loaned us, at night I worked part time at the Lone Star Gas Company, processing the paid-bills through IBM machines. Learning, learning, and earning as I went.
Similar tidbits in: Memories of Early Computer Days
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