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How the IBM 1403 Printer Hammered Out 1,100 Lines Per Minute

It took tiny electromagnetic hammers to keep up with new data-processing systems

2 min read
Woman demonstrating the IBM 1460
Photo: Mondadori Portfolio/Getty Images

Introduced in October 1959, IBM’s 1401 data-processing system was one of the first transistorized computers ever sold commercially. The 1401 marked the transition from wiring panels and punch cards to stored programs and magnetic tape drives, and it offered performance and versatility at a price that even small businesses could afford—about US $6,500 per month ($54,000 today). Systems with similar features were much larger and cost about six times as much, according to this IEEE Spectrum article, which recounts how a group of engineers rebuilt an IBM 1401. Within a month of its debut, IBM took 3,000 orders for the machine, which was more orders than there were computers in existence at the time. By 1965, nearly half the computers in the world were 1401s.

Video: Computer History Museum

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The Unsung Inventor Who Chased the LED Rainbow

LEDs came only in shades of red—until George Craford expanded the palette

10 min read
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Man  with grey hair wearing dress shirt and tie standing in front of an LED stoplight and holding a panel with yellow and red LEDs glowing
DarkBlue2

Walk through half a football field’s worth of low partitions, filing cabinets, and desks. Note the curved mirrors hanging from the ceiling, the better to view the maze of engineers, technicians, and support staff of the development laboratory. Shrug when you spot the plastic taped over a few of the mirrors to obstruct that view.

Go to the heart of this labyrinth and there find M. George Craford, R&D manager for the optoelectronics division of Hewlett-Packard Co., San Jose, Calif. Sitting in his shirtsleeves at an industrial beige metal desk piled with papers, amid dented bookcases, gym bag in the corner, he does not look like anybody’s definition of a star engineer.

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