Sabre was the result of innovation begetting innovation. It was based on the unprecedented SAGE project that IBM developed and built for the US Air Force as the first real-time, data-intensive, networked air defense system designed to protect against piloted bomber attacks during the Cold War. Just as SAGE, in its time, was the world’s largest and most advanced military computer project in the world, Sabre became the world’s largest civil computer project, establishing an entire industry based on new technology.
In 1958, American Airlines signed a contract with IBM to create an electronic reservation system. American invested roughly US$40 million in the system—an amount that would have purchased four Boeing 707s when the airline’s entire fleet consisted of just 25 aircraft.
In 1960, after four years of research, development and design, the first Sabre reservation system was installed in Briarcliff Manor, New York, on two IBM ® 7090 computers where it processed 84,000 telephone calls per day. In 1972, American Airlines consolidated all its data processing through Sabre into new IBM System/360 computers in a new underground location in Tulsa, Oklahoma. By 1976, Sabre was installed in a travel agency for the first time, sparking the wave of travel automation that, by the end of the year, saw 130 system locations. By 1978, Sabre could store the histories of one million fares in an average day.
Today, Sabre remains the number one provider of travel technology products and services around the world. The Sabre system processes more than 42,000 transactions every second, and 98,000,000 trips are currently active and processed through a Sabre desktop.