The following events were reported in "From Ashes To A Model 30 In 23 Days," IBM News, Volume 4 Number 8, April 25, 1967, p. 3.


On January 30, 1967, a fire destroys the main office building of Avondale Shipyards, Inc., near New Orleans, La. The two-story building is Avondale's administrative nerve center, housing the records of multi-million dollar federal contracts, hundreds of magnetic tape reels, and reams of supporting documentation. And an IBM 1401 data processing system.

In just three weeks

Towering flames at the Avondale Shipyard general office building

Towering flames at the Avondale Shipyard general office building
Towering flames at the Avondale Shipyard general office building force workers to move automobiles more than 100 yards from the blaze.

Harris Arnold, Avondale's data processing manager, says: "All we recovered were four tape reels. Fortunately, two contained irreplaceable master payroll records for our 7,000 people. All programs and up-to-date employment records were lost." Along with the 1401 to process them.

In just three weeks

Harris Arnold (right) and Pete Barlow

Harris Arnold (right) and Pete Barlow
Harris Arnold (right) and Pete Barlow, IBM New Orleans Field Engineering manager, probe the ruins of the large 1401 system.

The day after the fire, David E. McKinney, New Orleans Commercial branch manager [later an IBM senior vice president], contacts the Midwestern Region office about an IBM System/360 Model 30 mainframe Avondale had earlier ordered. To accelerate the delivery of the new system, another similar Model 30 just off the assembly line at IBM's plant in Endicott, N.Y., is diverted to New Orleans.

Three days after the fire, Avondale pays its 7,000 employees with computer-prepared checks, on time as usual, thanks in part to support provided by IBMers in New Orleans. Dutch Murray, IBM account representative, recalls: "Debris was still smoking when the first Avondale people reported to the IBM Datacenter and began keypunching. Programmers housed in our branch office relayed instructions downstairs to the keypunch clerks."

Four days after the fire, the first of the Model 30's components arrives -- a 2821 control unit from San Jose, Calif. The next day, a 2403 tape drive and control unit arrives from Boulder, Colo. Three days after that, seven keypunch units from Poughkeepsie, N.Y., are delivered. Then comes the central processing unit, cables and related gear from Endicott; a printer from Raleigh, N.C.; and other equipment from Poughkeepsie.

Meanwhile, Harris Arnold and his data processing staff work tirelessly, as do other Avondale employees. Carpenters, electricians and sheet metal workers convert a portion of a warehouse into a 20-by-48 foot data processing center in one day. IBM's Murray says: "Air conditioning and humidity control equipment already was in the warehouse, since it housed electronic components for ships. But circuits had to be modified and new wiring installed to accommodate the Model 30."

Finally, just three weeks after the $500,000 blaze levels Avondale's office building, the company runs its first job on its own Model 30. IBM Field Engineering efforts, coupled with IBM Systems Manufacturing and Data Processing Divisions, had come through. The new computer handles everything from payroll and corporate accounting, to inventory and production control for a variety of Navy ships and cargo vessels on the ways and in the water.

Avondale's Harris sums up: "We came from ashes to a Model 30 in 23 days. We simply couldn't have done it without superior IBM-Avondale cooperation."