By the 1930s, most IBM punched-card equipment -- tabulators, accounting machines, multiplying and summary punches, calculators -- operated under the control of a plugboard, now formally referred to as a control panel. Users wired plugboards to specify exactly which card columns were to be read or punched, which card fields were to be fed to which accumulators, and so forth, depending on the machine. The instructions were given by connecting holes ("hubs") with wires. For example, a simple task on an accounting machine might be to print columns of numbers from a deck of cards, in which case a series of wires would connect card columns to printer columns. A slightly more ambitious version of this task would also accumulate totals by connecting the same card columns to accumulators, and then print the totals at the end.
The following pictures were posted on alt.folklore.computers by Chris Shrigley, 22 May 2003, showing an IBM 402 panel found in a neighbor's garage. Maximize your browser to see full-screen images.
CLICK HERE for a closeup of the right-hand subpanel of the 402 plugboard.
I wondered when I first saw [these pictures] what the widgets sticking up were. Dawned on me: those are the tips of the 'new' plugwires introduced with the 602 [my p.83]. In old plugboards like the 601 the wires plugged into a bronze clip behind the hole, and the other end of the clip contacted a prong on the machine. When you looked at the backs of old plugboards you saw a forest of identical clip ends. When you looked at the back of a new board you saw the tips of the wires plugged into the other side, which contacted the machine prongs [new shape, no doubt] directly. Nice engineering! This is what you see in the referenced picha. You also remind me the 407 had a four-panel (smaller panels?) board; I had forgotten.
IBM 402/403 Plugboard Diagram (blank) - Click image to magnify.
IBM 402/403 Plugboard Diagram (wired for crossfooting) - Click image to magnify.
Computing courses, such as the one taught at Watson Lab by Eric Hankam had control panel templates printed on blackboards, so programs could be drawn over them in chalk.
Also see: Baehne  Plate 2, Hollerith Type III Tabulator, IBM 285, IBM 407, IBM 557.
Last update: Fri Jan 16 16:15:31 2004