Tektronix 536 Oscilloscope
IBM 026 Keypunch
IBM 082 Sorter
IBM 2302 Disk Drive
Teletype Test Set
On July 10, 1973, IBM introduced a new, larger-capacity System/3 -- the Model 15 (IBM 5415) -- with added function and versatility. Developed in Rochester, the Model 15 was manufactured in Boca Raton, Fla., and in Vimercate, Italy. I visited Italy several times as the site was also a manufacturer of the Series III Copier. I also spent several months at the plant in Rochester, MN, too; home of the Mayo Clinic. A beautiful little city in the summer ... a bit cold in the winter ... but some great restaurants and very friendly natives.
By July 1974, more than 25,000 System/3s had been installed around the world, and another version, Model 8, jointly designed by Rochester and Boca Raton, debuted that September.
The IBM System/38 ultimately succeeded the System/3 in 1978, and all System/3 models had been withdrawn from marketing by June 1985. Today the System/3 legacy is carried on by the IBM AS/400 family sharing hardware with the RS/6000 line and produced in Austin, TX. Many a small office or company still uses this versatile computer for day-to-day "data processing" needs.
During this hey-day of the System/3, I was working as a test engineer, first on IBM’s Series III (name coincidental) Copier and then on the ESTAR – Eight Station Test and Repair facility at IBM’s US production facility for Diskette Drives, Boulder, Colorado. I was responsible for testing all diskette drives produced by IBM. I developed and maintained the ESTARs to perform that function. A Unified Test System computer based on the System/3 ran the ESTAR. We manufactured six different models of eight-inch floppy drives, as well as 5.25 inch and a special 4 inch drive that we developed, but it was never a success, foreclosed by the 3.5 inch drive developed by SONY.
During that time I wrote a lot of code in both PL/I and Assembler, and I also earned several patents for data formatting algorithms on disks. It was during this time that I wrote code that was released with the new IBM PC. I wrote parts of the diskette access driver for DOS 1.1 … very nerdish. I also did extensive data analysis of diskette wear characteristics. All of that work was done on this 3741 Data Station, although I also used 3276 and 3278 terminals connected to an IBM mainframe for my mathematical and design algorithm work. Some of the circuit board layouts were designed on Tektronix terminals that had display storage CRTs originally developed for oscilloscopes.
IBM 3741 Data Station
Other novelties of the Data Station were that you could see what you were doing by looking at a CRT screen, visible in the opening at the left through a mirror, and that you could make corrections. The little, green, eight-line by forty-column display is that little box to the left of the keyboard. I would put an eight-inch floppy into the system and write code that was then cross-compiled on an IBM Series/1 computer in a lab.
I later added bar code readers and other improvements to the data input of the ESTAR, eliminating manual data entry and reducing errors. I won a $10,000 IBM prize for that work which saved IBM ten times that amount in less than a year.