stands on its own as being one of the most dominant and important computers constructed and manufactured throughout the history of computing. This says a lot considering the modern age of the Internet and computing did not really start until the 1990’s and the IBM 360 was brought about roughly thirty years before that. This report shall offer a brief summary and review of the IBM 360, what is meant to the business and wider world at the time and what it still means to this very day.

One that fact clearly stands out when it comes to IBM and the 360 is that they literally bet the future of their company when they developed and created the computer. This was despite the fact that IBM dominated the computing world at the time. Indeed, of all of the computers out there at the time, IBM was the manufacturer of about two thirds of themtwo out of three. This was the scope and feel of the computing market as of 1961. As of 1962, the revenue of IBM was about $2.5 billion. It literally cost double that to develop and create the IBM 360 for the marketplace. Then-Company President Tom Watson Jr. unveiled the 360 for the marketplace in 1964 with a total of six different computer models that had a performance range of 50 to 1. There were also nearly fifty peripherals that could be paired with the IBM 360. The corporate market was very receptive as the orders for the in quite quickly (Computer History, 2015).

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The announcement of the new computer had the attention of many people around the world. Indeed, the April 7th, 1964 announcement regarding the IBM 360 was made to more than one hundred thousand people in 165 different cities. IBM even went to the trouble of arranging transportation from Grand Central Station to its Poughkeepsie, for the aforementioned announcement. One major trait of the IBM 360 that greatly worked in its favor was that it was compatible with a lot of different systems and equipment and this held true for both IBM and non-IBM machines. Indeed, while IBM had a lot of its own peripherals that could be added, there were plenty of third-party peripherals that could also “play well” with the IBM 360. Just one function that the IBM 360 could be used for was data plotting. A peripheral device that could be used for precisely that was known as the CalComp Plotter. There was also the Telex Tape Drive system, which was a technology that was huge with computers at the time (Computer History, 2015).

The nostalgia and reputation of the IBM 360 got a proverbial shot in the arm when it was heavily featured on the recent hit show Mad Men. Indeed, although the show just had its finale, the fact that it was so prominently featured on such a popular show was a big deal. Indeed, the show was intended to be very the depictions of the reactions to the Kennedy assassination and the heavy presence of people smoking in areas that would be forbidden now. A recent NBC story about the show and its depictions of the 360 note that the IBM 360 was the first computer that could be upgraded. Such an ability is taken for granted nowadays but it was practically impossible to do so in the earlier days and this was absolute before the IBM 360 came around. It should also be noted that IBM actually had to make its own parts to make the 360 and this was a departure from what they had done previously with other machines and technology that they developed and fostered. Indeed, it is noted by Watson that the development of the 360 “remade the computer industry.” Lastly, the story notes that the IBM 360 was usually the center of attention in a given office. Indeed, it cost $2 million to buy them or $20,000 to rent them. However, the cost was deemed well worth it and businesses were very apt to show them off (Popkin, 2014).

Per IBM’s own numbers, IBM was making a thousand 360 units per month as of the end of 1966. Over that same time frame, they had to hire 25,000 new employees and were building a total of three million square feet of space in both the United States and Europe (IBM, 2015). One could not really be blamed for being skeptical, but the architecture of the IBM 360 is still assessed, analyzed and pontificated about in the of 2015. This is true for a number of reasons. These include the relative simplicity of the architecture (especially compared to today), the historical context of the IBM 360 when it comes to computing history in general and the recognition of the fundamentals when it comes to present and future designs. Although the x86 architecture (which came after that of the 360’s) came to be the elephant in the room, the 360 was the starting point for much of what has happened between the 1960’s and now.


While modern computing typically means more complexity in terms of software and hardware requirements, there is a beauty and advantage to keeping things at least relatively simple. This is where historical golden nuggets like the IBM 360 come into play. While computing evolution drives on and things keep getting more complex, the computer forefathers of the past should never be forgotten.


Computer History. (2015). IBM System/360 – CHM Revolution. Retrieved 22 June 2015, from

IBM. (2015). IBM100 – System 360. Retrieved 22 June 2015, from

Mayer, J. (2015). In today’s computer science courses, why are we still ?. Quora. Retrieved 22 June 2015, from

Popkin, H. (2014). NBC News. Retrieved 22 June 2015, from