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They wrote off the mainframe computer decades ago So why did IBM unveil yet another number cruncher last week FORTY YEARS ago on April 7 1964 8212 the worlds first general purpose mainframe supercomputer the IBM Systm360 was unveiled As big as two refrigerators and accompanied by a roomful of tape drives and punched card readers the 360 was the leviathan of its day with all of 2 megabytes MB of memory and 6 MB of storage chugging at 2 million flips a second 2 MHz Todays cheapest personal computers are at least 10000 times more powerful It was the first machine that corporates around the world acquired and the series survived well into the 1970s Between 1964 and 1968 some 20 commercial installations came up in India 8212 and IBM 360-trained was the proud entry in ones bio-data that thousands in this country flashed as their credentials to be considered for a job in the Information Technology arena Before the System 360 programming method for commercial and scientific machines was different IBM offered the 1401 series for business and the pricier 7000 series for research 8212 and the twain never met But the new system merged the two lines 8212 essentially for production economics to protect its huge 5 billion investment It was a gamble that paid off even as it profoundly influenced the very business of computing The 360 8212 so named for the points of the compass 8212 became IBMs best-selling product and from 1964 to 1970 more than doubled its revenue from 32 billion dollars to 75 billion During those heydays IBM was shipping 1000 System360s a month at prices which started at around 130000 for the bare bones configuration In the later 1970s the 360 became the 370 and IBM continued to swear by the main frame not reacting while Unix emerged as a programming environment and more agile companies like
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