Announced in October 1959, the 1401 was equipped with ferrite-core memories having capacities of 1,400, 2,000 or 4,000 characters. The system could be configured to use punched-cards and magnetic tape, and could be used either as a stand-alone computer or as a peripheral system for larger computers. The 1401 processing unit could perform 193,300 additions of eight-digit numbers in one minute.
The monthly rental for a 1401 was $2,500 and up, depending on the configuration. By the end of 1961, the number of 1401s installed in the United States alone had reached 2,000 — representing about one out every four electronic stored-program computers installed by all manufacturers at that time. The number of installed 1401s peaked at more than 10,000 in the mid-1960s, and the system was withdrawn from marketing in February 1971.