IBM STRETCH: A Technology Link Between Yesterday & Tomorrow





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Published on Oct 10, 2008

[1981] IBM's STRETCH program for the Government's Los Alamos lab, later named the IBM 7030 when sold commercially, was IBM's audacious gamble at creating the world's most advanced computing system: about 100 times faster than the most advanced computer working today, according to then IBM chairman Tom Watson, Jr.

Design of the IBM STRETCH began in the summer of 1956, with a project team that eventually grew to 300 by 1959. When introduced, the STRETCH was considered a failure within IBM as it did not meet advertised expectations: though it was indeed the fastest computer then available, it was only 30 to 40 times faster than other systems (not 100 times as advertised).

The Success of STRETCH: Even though initial commercial expectations were not fully met, the technical, manufacturing, and managerial experience that came from creating STRETCH fed directly into other IBM projects, including its later System/360 - the single most successful family of computers (by revenue) of all time.

Concepts pioneered for STRETCH are now used in the world's most advanced microprocessors. These include:
- Multiprogramming, enabling a computer to juggle more than one job at a time
- Memory protection, preventing unauthorized memory access
- Memory interleaving, breaking up memory into chunks for much higher bandwidth
- Pipelining, lining up instructions in a queue, so that the computer doesn't have to wait between operations

This historic film was produced in 1981 by Brigham Young University to document the story and technical features of the IBM 7030 (STRETCH) System as well as the University's accomplishments using the system. The film was donated to the Computer History Museum along with the University's Stretch system when it was decommissioned.

Catalog Number: 102651558 (U-Matic master); 102651560 (Betacam SP preservation copy)


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