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The IBM 7090

A Complete History Of Mainframe Computing
The IBM 7090

Announced in late 1958, IBM replaced the aging 709 (the last of the 700 line we saw a few pages ago) with the 7090. In fact, in many ways, the 7090 was essentially a 709 made with 50,000 transistors rather than vacuum tubes. However, there were many benefits because of it, including both speed and reliability.

The 7090 and its later upgraded form, the 7094, were classic, powerful, and very large mainframe computers--and they were very expensive. The 7090 cost around $63,500 a month to rent in a typical configuration, and that did not include electricity.

Despite its cost, the speed of this machine could still make it very appealing. It was roughly five to six times faster than the 709 it had replaced, and was capable of 229,000 additions or subtractions, 39,500 multiplications, or 32,700 divisions in one second. The 7094, announced in 1962, was capable of 250,000 additions or subtractions, 100,000 multiplications, and 62,500 divisions per second. It could use 32,768 36-bit words of core storage.

However, outside of implementing the newest technologies (core memory, RAMAC, transistors, etc.) and the consequent improvement in speed, power use, and reliability, it was not functionally very different from its predecessor. Jobs were executed by collecting them on reels of tape and were run in batches, and the results were given back to the programmer when done.

While the performance, capacity, and reliability of these machines were impressive (mainly due to the move to transistors and other new technologies), it would be a stretch to call this a groundbreaking machine that pushed the boundaries of computing.

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