Mixsonian Larry

IBM 1401 Computer

The UFCC also had an older IBM 1401 computer. The 1401 was about the size of a Volkswagen and it was used to process various "off-line" jobs like punching cards, reading cards to tape and running the IBM 1401Calcomp plotter. I think there was only about one or two people who had been around long enough who could still program the 1401. To "program" meant getting a wire patch panel about a foot square that was full of holes in which you plugged wire jumpers. To change the program you would unplug a patch program and load a new patch panel. After putting in the patch panel you would then take a deck of cards and load it into the memory. One interesting program was the "music" program. Someone found that if you put a transistor radio on top of the computer it would make a certain tone depending what the computer was doing. They then wrote a program that you would load, put the radio on top of the computer and it would play songs like Jingle Bells. One of my jobs was to operate the 1401, taking tapes generated by the mainframe and running a program that would punch, sometimes, boxes of cards. Other times I would do just the opposite. I remember once have, not just boxes, but about six cases of cards and reading them in which the 1401 would write to tape. Another thing the 1401 was used for was to drive a Calcomp pen plotter. This was the only "graphical" output the mainframe could generate. A mainframe program would write a tape which then would be taken to the 1401 to be read in and the 1401 would drive the plotter to generate graphs, diagrams or whatever. I found this fascinating and I wrote several Fortran programs on the mainframe that would generate various graphical diagrams on the plotter.