60s era computers


I want to reply to a post in the topic I started What age range are you in? A get to know you question and I prefer to do so in a new topic so my other topic stays on topic.

That is interesting, I did not know about those models of computers.
I just googled the “IBM 7090” and found the Wikipedia page that says:

The IBM 7090 is a second-generation transistorized version of the earlier IBM 709 vacuum tube mainframe computer that was designed for “large-scale scientific and technological applications”. The 7090 is the fourth member of the IBM 700/7000 series scientific computers. The first 7090 installation was in December 1959. In 1960, a typical system sold for $2.9 million (equivalent to $19 million in 2018) or could be rented for $63,500 a month (equivalent to $421,000 in 2018).

The wikipedia page for the “IBM 704” says:

The IBM 704 , introduced by IBM in 1954, is the first mass-produced computer with floating-point arithmetic hardware. The IBM 704 Manual of operation states:
The type 704 Electronic Data-Processing Machine is a large-scale, high-speed electronic calculator controlled by an internally stored program of the single address type.

The 704 at that time was thus regarded as “pretty much the only computer that could handle complex math.”
The 704 was a significant improvement over the earlier IBM 701 in terms of architecture and implementation. Like the 701, the 704 uses vacuum tube logic circuitry and 36-bit binary words. Changes from the 701 include the use of core memory instead of Williams tubes, floating-point arithmetic instructions, 15-bit addressing and the addition of three index registers. To support these new features, the instructions were expanded to use the full 36-bit word. The new instruction set, which is not compatible with the 701, became the base for the “scientific architecture” subclass of the IBM 700/7000 series computers.

The 704 can execute up to 12,000 floating-point additions per second.
IBM sold 123 type 704 systems between 1955 and 1960.

I googled “Burroughs B550” and found this project where people are developing an emulator for the Borroughs B5500 using Javascirpt.
I’m not quite sure why but I guess some people wanted it for some reason.

As for the Honeywell 6000 series, I just always thought of Honeywell as company that made thermostats to control AC/Heat systems in houses.
I never thought about anything else they did or do now.

Regarding the programming, I recall reading an article a bit ago saying that Cobal programmers are still needed as many of those computers are still in use today and as the amount of Cobal programmers out there goes down, it becomes a bigger problem for those still using those systems.

It’s amazing how far technology has come in the last few decades.
I’ve read about punch cards and vacuum tubes before and seen pictures of them but I hadn’t looked into the details much on specific models or even know people from that era who worked on those machines.

The "notable applications section of the IBM 7090 mentions things such as:

  • NASA used 7090s, and, later, 7094s to control the Mercury and Gemini space flights. Goddard Space Flight Center operated three 7094s. During the early Apollo Program, a 7094 was kept operational to run flight planning software that had not yet been ported to mission control’s newer System/360 computers
  • Caltech/NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory had three 7094s in the Space Flight Operations Facility (SFOF, building 230), fed via tape using several 1401s, and two 7094/7044 direct-coupled systems (in buildings 125 and 156). [under discussion]

I remember now that it was computers like those that were used to send people to the moon.

It’s a bit crazy to think about.


One of the thing my dad loves talking about (he is a huge space nerd) is how they landed men on the moon with less than the computing power than a wrist watch. I think it’s a little more power than that but it’s cool to know what computer they used. :smiley: