Columbia University Computing History
The IBM 704
The IBM 704 Computer (1954). The first mass-produced computer with
core memory and floating-point arithmetic, whose designers included John Backus
, formerly of IBM Watson Laboratory at
Columbia University (who also was the principal designer of FORTRAN, the
first widespread high-level language for computer programming), as well as
Gene Amdahl (who would go on to become chief architect for the IBM 360 and
later start his own company to rival IBM). The 704's 6-bit BCD character
set and 36-bit word account for FORTRAN's 6-character limit on identifiers.
Livermore National Laboratory
Here's a group photo of IBM Customer Administrative Class 941, 3 May 1954,
on the 704, which includes 704 designers Gene Amdahl and (Watson Lab
alumnus) John Backus, plus fellow ex-Watson-Labber
Herb Grosch (who contributed the photo) and
other pioneers of computing:
Photo: IBM, courtesy of Herb Grosch. Click for details and
full-size image (1MB).
Here's another photo that highlights the 704's floorspace requirements,
which were too great for the space available in Watson Lab and forced
Columbia to return an NSF grant for the purchase of this machine, a factor
which led to the creation of the Columbia Computer Center:
Photo: W.J. Eckert, "Calculating Machines,"
Encyclopedia Americana (1958)
- Amdahl, G.M, and J.W. Backus, The System Design of the IBM Type
704, IBM Engineering Laboratory, Poughkeepsie NY (1955), 11pp.