Computer Classic: "System Technology" circa 1960 System Development Corporation





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Published on Aug 22, 2012

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"On the development of an early warning aircraft simulation system.
Excellent footage of computers and data processing.
Mainframe computers, credit cards, information technology, aerial of System Development Corporation headquarters, engineers at work, drafting diagrams and maps, engineers in meetings, women draftspersons, electronic typewriters, women office workers, in-basket, keypunch stations, tabulating cards (IBM cards) being punched, card sorters, magnetic tape libraries, mag tape drives, computer operators, film recorders, early computer graphics, paper tape punches, wiring computer frames, computer printers, printouts moving by camera, women technicians, pegboard with pegs tied together by cords to diagram project management"

Public domain film from the Library of Congress Prelinger Archive, slightly cropped to remove uneven edges, with the aspect ratio corrected, and mild video noise reduction applied.
The soundtrack was also processed with volume normalization, noise reduction, clipping reduction, and/or equalization (the resulting sound, though not perfect, is far less noisy than the original).


System Development Corporation (SDC), based in Santa Monica, California, was considered the world's first computer software company.

SDC started in 1955 as the systems engineering group for the SAGE air defense ground system at the RAND Corporation. RAND spun off the group in 1957 as a non-profit organization that provided expertise for the United States military in the design, integration, and testing of large, complex, computer-controlled systems.

SDC became for-profit in 1969. With that change, it began to offer its services to all comers rather than only to the American military.

In 1980, SDC was sold by its board of directors to Burroughs Corporation. In 1986, Burroughs merged with the Sperry Corporation to form Unisys, and SDC was folded into Unisys Defense Systems...


The IBM 709 was an early computer system introduced by IBM in August 1958. It was an improved version of the IBM 704 and the second member of the IBM 700/7000 series of scientific computers. The IBM 709 added overlapped input/output, indirect addressing, and three "convert" instructions (which provided support for decimal arithmetic, leading zero suppression, and several other operations). The 709 had 32,768 words of 36-bit memory and could execute 42,000 add or subtract instructions or 5000 multiplies per second.

An optional hardware emulator executed legacy IBM 704 programs on the IBM 709. This was the first commercially available emulator prior to 1960. Registers and most 704 instructions were emulated in 709 hardware. Complex 704 instructions such as floating point trap and input-output routines were emulated in 709 software.

The 709 was built using vacuum tubes. IBM introduced a transistorized version of the 709, called the IBM 7090, in November 1959.

The FORTRAN Assembly Program was first introduced for the 709.


The IBM 709 had a 38 bit accumulator, a 36 bit multiplier quotient register, and three 15 bit index registers whose contents were subtracted from the base address instead of being added to it. Addition could be performed using two's complement arithmetic and instructions were provided for this purpose. All three index registers could participate in an instruction: the 3 bit tag field in the instruction was a bit map specifying which of the registers would participate in the operation, however if more than one index register was specified, their contents were combined by a logical or operation, not addition.

Instruction and data formats

There were five instruction formats, referred to as Types A, B,C, D and E. Most instructions were of type B.

Type A instructions had, in sequence, a three bit prefix (instruction code), a 15 bit decrement field, a 3 bit tag field, and a 15 bit address field. They were conditional jump operations based on the values in the decrement registers specified in the tag field. Some also subtracted the decrement field from the contents of the index registers. The implementation required that the second two bits of the instruction code be non-zero, giving a total of six possible type A instructions. One (STR, instruction code binary 101) was not implemented until the IBM 709.

Type B instructions had, in sequence, a 12 bit instruction code (with the second and third bits set to 0 to distinguish them from type A instructions), a two bit flag field, four unused bits, a 3 bit tag field, and a 15 bit address field.

Types C, D and E were used for specialized instructions...


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