The Burroughs Corporation found itself part of computing history in 1953 when it moved into computers for the banking industry. By the 1960s the company had risen to the top of the computing heavyweights, competing with IBM, GE, and RCA in the mainframe market.
Like IBM, Burroughs produced all of their own systems and peripherals including printers, disk drives, and more. The architecture of a Burroughs machine was based what is called language directed design, and used instruction sets that could be done with COBOL or FORTRAN. The company went on to produce a slew of popular and innovative computers and business machines until 1986, when it was merged with Sperry Corporation to form Unisys, which is still producing computers and providing a whole range of IT services as of 2016.
The developers and builders of the 701 had created a computer that consisted of two tape units (each with two tape drives), a magnetic drum memory unit, a cathode-ray tube storage unit, an L-shaped arithmetic and control unit with an operator’s panel, a card reader, a printer, a card punch and three power units. The 701 could perform more than 16,000 addition or subtraction operations a second, read 12,500 digits a second from tape, print 180 letters or numbers a second, and output 400 digits a second from punched-cards.
IBM is now a name synonymous with computers. Formally named International Business Machines in 1924, it has a history going back to the early 1900s. They’ve expanded exponentially every year since then, and became one of the great companies in the history of computing. During the 1960s they held nearly 80 percent of the market in computer sales. The U.S. Justice Dept tried unsuccessfully to break up IBM with an anti trust lawsuit in 1952.
IBM made a number of key technological changes in the decade of the 1950s. In 1952, the company introduced the IBM 701, its first large computer based on the vacuum tube. The tubes were quicker, smaller and more easily replaced than the electromechanical switches in the Mark I (1944). The 701 executed 17,000 instructions per second and was used primarily for government and research work. But vacuum tubes rapidly moved computers into business applications such as billing, payroll and inventory control. By 1959, transistors were replacing vacuum tubes.
A new generation of IBM leadership oversaw this period of rapid technological change. After nearly four decades as IBM’s chief executive, Thomas J. Watson, Sr., passed the title of president on to his son, Thomas J. Watson, Jr., in 1952. He became chief executive officer just six weeks before his father’s death on June 19, 1956 at age 82.