1401 Data Processing System



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1401 Data Processing System

Announced October 5, 1959 and withdrawn February 8, 1971.

The following is the text of an IBM Data Processing Division press fact sheet distributed on October 5, 1959.

all-transistorized IBM 1401 Data Processing System places the features
found in electronic data processing systems at the disposal of smaller
businesses, previously limited to the use of conventional punched card
equipment. These features include: high speed card punching and
reading, magnetic tape input and output, high speed printing, stored
program, and arithmetic and logical ability.

elements of the basic 1401 system are the 1401 Processing Unit, 1402
Card Read-Punch, and 1403 Printer. Configurations include a card
system, a tape system, and a combination of the two.

1401 may be operated as an independent system, in conjunction with IBM
punched card equipment, or as auxiliary equipment to IBM 700 or 7000
series systems.

1401 performs functions previously requiring a number of separate
machines: card reading and punching, separation of output cards,
calculating, and printing.

an auxiliary to large scale data processing systems, the 1401 performs
magnetic tape sorting and editing, card-to-tape and tape-to-card
operations and high speed printing. The larger system is thus made
available for data processing and logical operations.

simplified programming techniques make the 1401 extremely powerful and
more efficient than many other systems of comparable or even larger
size. Variable length data and program instruction words provide
maximum utilization of the magnetic core storage; there is no waste of
storage capacity as with fixed record length systems. Program steps may
be skipped or reread in any desired sequence, a feature which greatly
increases programming flexibility.

the 1401, manual control panel wiring is eliminated, and transfer of
cards or paper between machine units is greatly reduced.

1401 incorporates the building block principle, providing for expansion
and a variety of configurations to fit the needs of individual users.

  Components of the 1401 Data Processing System

IBM 1401 Processing Unit
unit controls the entire system by means of its stored program. It
performs the arithmetic and logical functions, controls card reading
and punching, magnetic tape input and output, and tells the printer
what to print and where to print it.

1401 automatically edits the systems printed output for spacing,
punctuation and format. The 1401 is available with 1,400; 2,000; or
4,000 positions of core storage. Alphabetical or numerical data may be

In one minute, the 1401 Processing Unit can perform 193,300 additions
(eight-digit numbers) or 25,000 multiplications (six-digit numbers by
four-digit numbers).

IBM 1402 Card Read-Punch
1402 reads card information into the processing unit, punches cards,
and separates them into radial stackers. The cards can easily be
removed while the machine is running. Maximum speeds are: punching, 250
cards per minute; reading, 800 cpm. Reading and punching can be
performed simultaneously.

IBM 1403 Printer
IBM 1403 Printer is a completely new development providing maximum
“thru-put” of forms and documents in printing data from punched cards
and magnetic tape. The printer incorporates a swiftly moving horizontal
chain (similar in appearance to a bicycle chain) of engraved type
faces, operated by 132 electronically-timed hammers spaced along the
printing line. The impact of a hammer presses the paper and ink ribbon
against a type character, causing it to print. The chain principle
achieves perfect alignment of the printed line and greatly reduces the
number of sets of type characters needed.

1403 prints by means of a scanning operation which compares characters
on the chain with characters in storage designated to be printed. When
a character on the chain matches the one in storage, the hammer for
that printing position is fired.

chain of engraved type faces moves across the face of forms or
documents at a constant speed of ninety inches a second. Two
interchangeable type styles are available for the chain.

outstanding feature of the printer is the exclusive Dual Speed
Carriage, which has the ability to skip over blank spaces on forms and
documents at speeds far in excess of normal printing rate. This
carriage skips the first eight lines at thirty-three inches per second,
and beyond eight lines at seventy-five inches per second. Combined with
a printing speed of 600 lines per minute, the result is a higher rate
of output than is obtainable with many printers of greater line
printing speed. The 1403 Printer can produce over 230 two-line
documents, such as checks, per minute. This is equivalent to a printing
speed of 4,800 lines per minute.

electronic and logical operations of the printer are under the stored
program control of the 1401 Processing Unit. Information to be printed
is read into storage from the input cards or magnetic tape, processed,
and read out to the Printer.

A feature of the Printer is a wheeled form stand which reduces and simplifies paper handling.

Magnetic Tape Units
to six IBM 729 Magnetic Tape Units (Model II or IV) may be added to the
1401 system for increased input, speed, and storage compactness. These
are the same all-transistorized tape units used with the IBM Series 700
and 7000 data processing systems. Either single or double density tapes
are specified to provide processing speeds of 15,000 or 41,667
characters a second with the 729 II; 22,500 or 62,500 characters a
second for the 729 IV.

IBM 1210 Sorter-Reader
1401 can also be linked to an IBM 1210 Model 4 Sorter-Reader for direct
processing of paper documents imprinted with magnetic ink, providing
banks with a system for mechanizing bank demand deposit accounting and
account reconciliation, transit operations, installment and mortgage
loan accounting and other banking functions.

  Typical 1401 applications

The speed of the 1401 system is an asset in payroll processing. Payroll
registers, check and earnings statements and deduction registers are
prepared at speeds up to 600 lines per minute. The system will
accumulate regular and overtime hours and gross earnings for each
employee, check each employee’s accumulated total hours and dollars,
and print a daily performance record. The 1401 consolidates these
payroll operations and performs them at greater speeds than present

Railroad freight car accounting:
The power and capacity of an IBM 1401 Tape System enables sorting,
rearranging and processing of source data to be done automatically
without maintaining voluminous punched card records. Source document
data is recorded directly on tape, and repetitive handling and
processing of records is eliminated. Greatly reduced file space,
current daily information, and reduced operating expenses are among the
advantages to railroad users.

Public utility customer accounting:
The IBM 1401 provides the medium and smaller size public utility with
an integrated operation for customer billing and accounting, starting
with the application for service, continuing through the final bill,
and including all records having to do with the utility customer and
his premises. Some of the advantages of a 1401 Tape System to the
utility are: daily updating of the entire accounts receivable file,
with all cash balanced and posted on a daily basis; daily preparation
of an open-item accounts receivable register, collection follow-up
notices and automatic preparation of mark-sense meter reading cards as
a part of the normal maintenance of the master file.

Decision making for merchandise control in the retail industry is a
significant area for processing on the 1401. By highlighting increases
in inventories and markdowns, slow-moving items can be brought to the
attention of executives. Improved buying and distribution in a
competitive market will be made possible by showing the effect of all
transactions in a few integrated reports. Sales figures from previous
weeks as well as last years figures will appear on the same reports
that show the current statistics, enabling management to give attention
to areas that are in difficulty. With the 1401, retail executives and
merchandise managers can take advantage of faster, more accurate

Accounts receivable for retailers:
The speed of an IBM 1401 Tape System and its exceptional file
maintenance abilities make it well suited for handling merchandise
control as well as all accounting and statistical requirements for
retailing. Some of the major advantages to medium and large departments
and specialty stores are tight controls to assure accuracy of customer
statements, complete up-to-date credit information and ability to
handle peak loads without sacrificing schedule or taking on a large
temporary staff.


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