The following is the text of an IBM press release distributed on September 14, 1956.
Four revolutionary new products to accelerate the trend toward office and plant automation were announced today by International Business Machines Corp.:
The announcement of the new products was made by Thomas J. Watson, Jr., IBM president, at a press conference held by the company. The electronic typewriter was shown at IBM's New York headquarters, and the 650 RAMAC and the automatic production recording equipment were demonstrated at the IBM Glendale Engineering Laboratory near Endicott, N. Y. Earlier the press had been flown to Norfolk, Va., to watch a demonstration of a 305 RAMAC system being tested by the U. S. Navy at its Norfolk Supply Center. Other 305 RAMAC systems are being tested by private corporations.
In announcing the products, Mr. Watson said: "Today is the greatest new product day in the history of IBM and, I believe, in the history of the office equipment industry. These products provide the most significant advancement toward business control and operation by electronics to be made thus far."
Mr. Watson went on to say that continuous accounting will mean that business transactions will be completely processed right after they occur. There will be no delays while data is grouped for batch processing. People running a business will be able to get the fresh facts they need, at once. Random access memory equipment will not only revolutionize punched card accounting but also magnetic tape accounting. Automatic production recording, he noted, will provide the much-needed link between the production floor and the data processing department. APR closes an important segment of the "loop" needed for full automation. Mr. Watson added that the new electronic tab setter on the IBM electric typewriter will be a tremendous time and work saver to every typist who works with prepared business forms and documents.
650 RAMAC and 305 RAMAC
The 650 RAMAC and 305 RAMAC both utilize the magnetic disk memory device announced as experimental by IBM a year ago. Both machines are the first of a planned line of equipment designed for high-volume, in-line processing of business data. Transactions are processed continuously, as they occur, instead of being held until a group is accumulated, sorted and batch processed. In a single step, all records affected by a transaction will be immediately adjusted to account for the change.
The 650 RAMAC combines the IBM 650 Magnetic Drum Data Processing Machine with a series of disk memory units which are capable of storing a total of 24-million digits. The 305 RAMAC is an entirely new machine which contains its own input and output devices and processing unit as well as a built-in 5-million-digit disk memory. Both machines operate according to a program of electronically stored instructions.
An advanced feature of the new continuous accounting machines is the method by which the memory may be interrogated. With the 650 RAMAC, typewriter operators at remote inquiry stations may "ask" the machine for any of the data in the vast memory. Instants later the answer -- perhaps a sales total or an inventory figure -- appears on the typewriter. The same remote machine may be used to introduce information directly to the memory. The 305 RAMAC may be interrogated in a similar manner directly from the machine's console.
The monthly charge for 305 RAMAC is $3,200. Prices on the 650 RAMAC will be announced at a later date. Deliveries on both will start in mid-1957 although several test 305 RAMAC's are being delivered this year.
Automatic production recording
APR fills a vital need. Thousands of hours are now being spent in plants and factories on data collection and recording. Much of this information is poorly or incorrectly recorded, and a substantial amount finds its way into accounting systems. Management has been aware that a great deal of these data are unreliable, as well as expensive and difficult to collect, and thoroughly inadequate for the purpose of sound management decisions.
With APR, production variables such as weight, count, length, and temperature, together with the related information that identifies the product and the process are automatically collected in great volume and recorded in printed and punched form. This information can be fed directly to data processing machines capable of preparing production, cost inventory, and other management reports. Management will have available a running picture of current production performance for on-the-spot supervision.
APR is made up of a system of components which may be combined in small, simple systems or in complex networks, depending on the application. These components include various types of input devices -- clocks, keyboards, and a device that converts electrical or mechanical impulses from measuring instruments to digital form; storage devices; a programming unit; and output devices -- an automatic typewriter and a tape perforator. These components have been developed to meet the needs of many and varied production problems and to be compatible with commercially-available measuring instruments.
Monthly rentals for APR systems will range from $235 to $1,200 or more, with an average around $500.
An electronic "reading" device has been added to the IBM electric typewriter so that typists will no longer have to set tabulating stops while filling in the hundreds of different varieties of forms that are used every day in a business office. Business forms will be printed with vertical lines of electrically-conductive ink associated with each blank fill-in area for which the typist would normally set the tab. These lines, in effect, program the typewriter. No matter what variety of form the typist rolls into the machine, the tabs will be automatically set. All the typist need do is operate the tab key, and the machine, "reading" the lines on the form, will position the carriage before the next fill-in area. The new typewriter will sell for $520.
According to Henry W. Reis, Jr., sales manager of IBM's Electric Typewriter Division, this historic application of electronics to office machines opens many dramatic possibilities. Mr. Reis added, "This marriage of electronics to the typewriter promises to be a most fruitful one. Since IBM introduced the first electric typewriter to the business world 23 years ago, many advances have been made in all phases of typewriter engineering, but they are merely mile posts along the road to making the origination of letters and documents easier and faster." He said, "Our endowing the typewriter with an 'electronic intelligence' is just one of the many strides we will make as we continue to incorporate scientific developments into the typewriter of the future."