On November 1, 1979, IBM debuted a new system to increase office productivity by combining advanced text processing and electronic document distribution. The 5520 Administrative System supported the creation, storage, retrieval and editing of documents ranging from single-page memos to multi-page manuals. Business correspondence could be created efficiently on the 5520 and then delivered instantly to other users over communications lines.
The 5520 came in four models, with disk storage capacity up to 130 megabytes. Tailored to the administrative environment, the 5520 could accommodate from three to 12 printers — both daisy wheel (IBM 5257) and ink jet (IBM 5258) types — and from one to 18 display stations (IBM 5253 or IBM 5254).
Prices varied according to the specific machine types, models and features selected by customers. For example, a text system with 29 million characters of system/user disk storage capacity, five 5253 display stations and two 5257 printers, cost $64,351 or could be leased for $1,980 a month. A text and document distribution system with 130 million characters of system/user disk storage capacity, fifteen 5253 display stations, six 5257 printers and the necessary features to support communication lines, could be purchased for $175,753 or leased for $5,372 a month.
The 5520 Administrative System was compatible for electronic document distribution via communication lines with several IBM products including the 6670 Information Distributor, Office System/6, 6240 Mag Card Typewriter-Communicating and an appropriately programmed System/370 mainframe.
The 5520 was first shipped to customers in February 1980. Five months later, IBM announced software enhancements to the 5520, including files processing with arithmetic functions and an additional communications capability. The system was withdrawn from marketing between March 1983 and July 1984.