Friday, November 13, 2009


What many people do not know about me is that I had a computer life long before I became an Apple Computer person. While my passion for all things Apple has been going on for at least 25 years, mainly because I think Apple is the most creative and innovative computer and computer-related things company that currently exists.

But this does not mean that my heart cannot go pitter-pat for other computers and technology...and so it did this week when I attended an event at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View to honor the 50th anniversary of the IBM 1401. The 1401 was announced in 1959, a few years before I went to work for IBM as a Systems Engineer. The 1401 was my first computer and it has always held a special place in my heart.

The 1401 was one of IBM's earliest transistorized computers and by the mid 1960s, when I was supporting its users and programming it in machine language and Assembly language, half of all the computers in use by businesses and institutions around the world were 1401s or members of its family.

The Computer History Museum now has two operational 1401 systems that have been restored to working order by a team of loyal volunteers who also are passionate about the 1401.

This week's event featured a panel of IBMers who developed the 1401 between 1957 and 1960. The auditorium at the museum was packed to overflowing with an impressive mix of we "old timers" and a lot of younger Silicon Valley techies for whom the 1401 is only a legend. I have been on Cloud Nine over this evening ever since.


Fast forwarding to computing today, a few weeks ago, when I was in Scottsdale, Arizona, I visited the first-ever Microsoft retail store in the Fashion Square shopping center. A week later, Microsoft opened its second store in Mission Viejo, California in The Shops at Mission Viejo shopping center.

The Microsoft store looks very very much like an Apple retail store, right down to it's version of Apple's Genius Bar, the Answer Bar, its tee-shirt clad staff, and the company logo over the entrance.

What I find interesting about the Microsoft store is that, while Microsoft does not manufacture computers, the store displays an extensive variety of computers that use the Windows operating system. These computers are for sale at the store and, presumably, it is the Answer Bar where Windows users will go to get their Windows technical questions/problems solved.

This is a picture of the Answer Bar:

My friend Lois, who uses Windows computers, liked that the store gave her a chance to see many Windows computers all in one place. The netbooks were all together, as were the laptops and desktops. The store offers a venue in which to try and compare a wide selection of computers, something that can't be done conveniently, if at all, by running around to Best Buy and other big box stores that sell Windows computers.

I enjoyed playing with the Microsoft Touch Screen-Table. We even sat down and played a game of checkers on it. (I won, only because Lois got tired of playing!)

1 comment:

Malcolm Ruthven said...

Barbara, I'm a friend of Stephanie Scott (your swim-team friend) and she sent me a link to your very good blog. The "IBM" tag caught my eye and lo and behold you were an IBM SE about the same time I was (St. Louis and San Francisco). I programmed a commercial application (via the blind leading the blind) on one of the first 1401s delivered in the country, a defense-priority 1401 at McDonnell Aircraft, for a local commercial business who rented time on that computer before their own arrived.

I'll be checking out more of your blog!