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Most of the photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs, 20 to 200 megabytes in size) from the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) Many were digitized by LOC contractors using a Sinar studio back. They are adjusted by your webmaster for contrast and color in Photoshop before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here.

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • FLY CANADIAN PACIFIC, c. 1950s

IBM 704: 1954

IBM 704: 1954

This network of black magnetic beads, smaller than a postage stamp, is one of a number of input-output "memory" units in the new "704" electronic calculator built by International Business Machines. This particular "memory" unit of the 704 instantaneously strips all information off a slow-moving punch card, stores the data momentarily in the form of magnetic charges, and passes along the individual items, one at a time, to a lightning-fast calculating section, which can handle around 10 million operations an hour, theoretically replacing 3,000 hand-operated adding machines. Orders are in for over thirty 704's, which I.B.M. will rent at some $20,000 a month each. View full size. Photo by Ezra Stoller.

IBM 704

I worked with the very last one of these in 1972. It would not fit into your house. It had those scifi mag tape transports, just like in the old movies.

We could repair it by turning out the lights, opening up the back, and identifying a bad filament in one of the hundreds of small vacuum tubes.

I count 72 bits...

12 columns of 6...

48 bits

And that "memory" unit doesn't strip all the information off a punch card. The 704 used a 36-bit "word" and this particular "memory" unit has 48 ferrite cores.

10 million operations an hour

That's about 2800 operations per second, or what we might call 0.003 MHz. The IBM 704 was the first computer to run FORTRAN and LISP ... but neither existed until several years after this photo was taken.

 
THE 100-YEAR-OLD PHOTO BLOG
Shorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photo blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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