IBM Series/1


IBM Series/1

The IBM Series/1 computer was a 16-bit minicomputer, introduced in 1976, that in many respects competed with other minicomputers of the time, such as the PDP-11 from Digital Equipment Corporation and similar offerings from Data General and HP. The Series/1 was typically used to control and operate external electro-mechanical components while also allowing for primitive data storage and handling.

The Series/1 was available with either of two mutually exclusive operating systems: Event Driven Exectutive (EDX) or Realtime Programming System (RPS). Systems using EDX were primarily programmed using Event Driven Language (EDL), though high level languages such as Fortran IV, PL/1 and Cobol were also available. Although the Series/1 was grossly underpowered by today's standards, a robust multiuser operating environment (RPS) was available along with several additional high level languages for the RPS OS.

Although the Series/1 used EBCDIC character encoding internally and locally attached EBCDIC terminals, ASCII based remote terminals and devices could be attached via an I/O card with a RS-232 interface to be more compatible with competing minicomputers. IBM's own 3101 and 3151 ASCII terminals are examples of this. This was a departure from IBM mainframes that used 3270 terminals and coaxial attachment and even preceded the IBM PC.

Series/1 computers were withdrawn from marketing in late 1980s.

Models

Initially processors model 3 (IBM 4953) and the model 5 (IBM 4955) were provided. Later processors were the model 4 (IBM 4954) and model 6 (IBM 4956).

Applications of the Series/1

The Series/1 was also widely used in manufacturing environments, including General Motors assembly plants. Example systems and applications included Manufacturing Information Database (MIDB), Vechicle Component Verification System (VCVS) and Assembly Line Diagnostic Link (ALDL). These systems were connected to plant floor devices and used in the realtime manufacture of vehicles. There was also a Time and Attendance (T&A) system connected to badge readers and employee turnstyles.

Internally, IBM used banks of Series/1 computers as communications front end systems on their IBM Information Systems commercial network although back end processing was done with System/370 architecture computers.

Series/1 in the Marine Corps

The United States Marine Corps was a major Series/1 customer in the late 1970s and into the early 1980s. IBM created a ruggedized, portable version with a green plastic and metal housing for field and shipboard use. The central processor unit boasted twin 1 megabyte 8 inch floppy disk drives, an 8 inch green monitor with 25x80 character resolution (and seldom-used graphics capability) and 16 kilobytes of RAM. Each standard 'suite' included the CPU unit, a keyboard, and a 132 column dot-matrix printer with a separate cooling-fan base. This suite was transported in two green, foam-lined, waterproof, locking plastic cases; each weighing over 100 pounds loaded. Among the optional pieces of equipment was a paper tape punch and a magnetic tape reader. Each of these also came with its own case.

The official nomenclature for this equipment was the 'Automated Data Processing Equipment for the Fleet Marine Force' (ADPE-FMF), but it was universally known as the 'Green Machine'.

The initial rollout of the equipment was on the west coast at Camp Pendleton in 1981, where the 1st FSSG Information Systems Management Office (ISMO) was formed to develop software and support the new equipment. ISMOs were also formed at 2nd FSSG at Camp Lejeune and 3rd FSSG on Okinawa. Systems development offices were also established at Marine Corps Central Design and Programming Activities (MCCDPA) at the Marine Corps Finance Center, Kansas City, Missouri, at Marine Corps Base Quantico, and at Marine Corps Logistic Base Albany, Georgia. These offices specialized in (respectively) financial, personnel and logistical applications.

The 'Class I' systems were classified as mainframe systems - and the Series/1 systems that provided field input to them - that were maintained at and distributed from the three CDPAs. The chief among these were JUMPS/MMS (Joint Uniform Military Pay System/Manpower Management System), SASSY (Supported Activities Supply SYstem), and MIMMS (Marine Corps Integrated Maintenance Management System).

Designed primarily as a Source Data Automation (SDA) device for the enhancement of input into 'Class I' logistics and personnel computer systems, the ADPE-FMF Series/1 provided the power of a minicomputer to the battalion/squadron commander. However, left in the hands of young Marine Corps programmers eager to explore the capabilities of their new equipment, the Series/1 soon proved to be a valuable and flexible workhorse for all manner of tasks at all organizational levels.

Dozens of 'Class II' systems were locally developed and maintained at the ISMOs, providing undreamed-of functionality even as far as the company and deployed unit level. Systems developed included the waggishly named 'Standardized Wing Overseas Operation Passenger System' (SWOOPS - developed to generate Air Force passenger manifests from personnel databases) and 'Universal Random Integrity News Extract' (URINE - developed to provide names picked randomly from personnel databases for urinalysis screening).

Although a COBOL compiler was available as part of the software package sold to the Marine Corps with the Series/1, most Class I and Class II systems development was in EDL.

In the middle 1980s, the ADPE-FMF equipment was gradually phased out in favor of IBM-PC class microcomputers running off-the-shelf software and Marine Corps developed applications written in Ada.

External links

* [http://www-03.ibm.com/ibm/history/exhibits/vintage/vintage_4506VV4024.html IBM archive of Series/1 with picture]
* [http://www-03.ibm.com/ibm/history/exhibits/robotics/robotics_3.html IBM 7565 Manufacturing System incorporating a Series/1 (see middle of photo)]
* [http://www.tprthai.net/comps/ibmser1.jpgPicture of a Series/1 in a full 19 inch rack]
* [http://www.dvq.com/ads/IBMSeries1.pdf IBM Series/1 Equipment Modules brochure]


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