Twenty years after the IBM 701 was introduced, Thomas Watson Jr. reflected on the efforts of the people who made the project successful: … I think we thought in those early days that we either had to win this one or fail as a company—and that’s why I think everybody put such effort into it.”
Reflections on the 701
“The corporation took a kind of bet. We created the machine that carried us into the electronics business. ... More than 115 of the people who worked on the project are still with IBM. Some others now work for our competitors. But in those days, they were an absolutely unbeatable team. They were the nucleus of all the teams that have created the computers we’ve developed since. So, in a very real way, they helped me build a business reputation which was more to their credit than my own. It’s made my life fruitful and happy and I’m grateful to all of them.”
Thomas J. Watson Jr.
President of IBM
Speech by Thomas J. Watson Jr.1973
“I think the thing that is most important about the 701 is that it got IBM into the computer business. And I think we all realized at that point in time that this was a new business—and its potential was fantastic.”
Chairman, Mathematics Planning Group, IBM Applied Sciences Division
“What IBM’s astonishing 701 actually did, in executing the Russian-English translation, was to create within itself a working model of another ‘brain’ specially designed to handle logic instead of mathematics. Thus, the ‘brain’ has crowned its previous reputation for superlative versatility with an even more lofty laurel. And, in so doing it has produced its own ‘brain’ child.
IBM press releaseJanuary 8, 1954
Putting it all together
James Birkenstock told Tom Watson in 1950: “I think we can put together all this stuff we have—tubes, tapes and tape drives—and make a machine that would be useful in building aircraft, designing jet engines and the like—projects calling for many repetitive operations."
Director of product planning and market analysis
“Pencil hadn’t hit paper, January 1st, 1951. And December 30th or 31st, 1952, the first production machine went from Poughkeepsie down to our then corporate headquarters, world headquarters, at 590. So that’s something under two years to design the machine, build an engineering model, shake down all the trouble, new technology—brand new technology—get it tested, fix it up and so forth, get the manufacturing line started, and get the first machine off the manufacturing line.”
IBM 701 design team