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IBM 7030

The IBM 7030, also known as Stretch, was IBM's first attempt at building a supercomputer. The first 7030 was delivered to Los Alamos in 1961.

Originally priced at $13.5 million, its failure to meet its aggressive performance estimates forced the price to be dropped to only $7.78 million and its withdrawal from sales to customers beyond those having already negotiated contracts. Even though the 7030 was much slower than expected, the 7030 was the fastest computer in the world from 1961 until 1964!

Development History

In May, 1955 IBM lost a bid on a high-performance decimal computer system for the University of California Radiation Laboratory in Livermore, California. Univac, the dominant computer manufacturer at the time, had won the contract for LARC[?], the Livermore Automatic Research Computer.

In September, 1955 fearing that Los Alamos might also order a LARC, IBM submitted a preliminary proposal for a high-performance binary computer, which they received with interest. In January, 1956, Project Stretch was formally initiated.

In November, 1956 IBM won the contract for a binary computer with the aggressive performance goal of a "speed at least 100 times the IBM 704" to the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory. Delivery was slated for 1960.

During design it proved necessary to reduce the clock speeds, making it clear that Stretch could not meet its aggressive performance goals, but estimates of performance ranged from 60 to 100 times the IBM 704. In 1960, the price of $13.5 million was set for the IBM 7030.

In 1961, actual benchmarks indicated that the performance of the IBM 7030 was only about 30 times the IBM 704, causing caused considerable embarrassment for IBM. In May, 1961 Tom Watson announced a price cut of all 7030s under negotiation to $7.78 million and immediate withdrawal of the product from further sales.

Customer Deliveries

  1. Los Alamos Scientific Laboratories (LASL) in April 1961, accepted in May 1961, and used until June 21, 1971.
  2. U.S. National Security Agency in February 1962 as the main CPU of the IBM 7950 Harvest system, used until 1976 when the IBM 7955[?] Tractor tape system developed problems due to worn cams that could not be replaced.
  3. Lawrence Radiation Laboratory[?], Berkeley, California.
  4. Atomic Weapons Research Establishment, Aldermaston, England[?].
  5. U.S. Weather Bureau.
  6. MITRE Corporation, used until August, 1971. In the spring of 1972 it was sold to Brigham Young University.
  7. U.S. Navy Dahlgren Naval Proving Ground.
  8. IBM.
  9. Commisariat a l'Energie Atomique, France.

Note: The Lawrence Radiation Laboratory's IBM 7030 (except for its core memory) and portions of the MITRE Corporation/Brigham Young University IBM 7030 now reside in the Computer History Museum (http://www.computerhistory.org) collection, in Mountain View, California.

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