IBM 700/7000 series

An IBM 704 mainframe at NACA in 1957

The IBM 700/7000 series is a series of large-scale (mainframe) computer systems that were made by IBM through the 1950s and early 1960s. The series includes several different, incompatible processor architectures. The 700s use vacuum tube logic and were made obsolete by the introduction of the transistorized 7000s. The 7000s, in turn, were eventually replaced by System/360, which was announced in 1964. However the 360/65, the first 360 powerful enough to replace 7000s, did not become available until November 1965. Early problems with OS/360 and the high cost of converting software kept many 7000s in service for years afterward.


The IBM 700/7000 series has six completely different ways of storing data and instructions:

The 700 class used vacuum tubes, the 7000 class was transistorized. All machines (like most other computers of the time) use magnetic core memory; except for early 701 and 702 models, which use CRT memory.

Software compatibility issues

Early computers were sold without software. As operating systems began to emerge, having four different mainframe architectures plus the 1400 midline architectures became a major problem for IBM since it meant at least four different programming efforts were required.

The System/360 combined the best features of the 7000 and 1400 series architectures into a single design. However, some 360 models have optional features that allow them to emulate the 1400 and 7000 instruction sets in microcode. One of the selling points of the System/370, introduced in mid-1970, was improved 1400/7000 series emulation, which could be done under operating system control rather than shutting down and restarting in emulation mode as was required on the 360s.


While the architectures differ, the machines in the same class share electronics technologies and generally use the same peripherals. Tape drives use 7-track format, with the IBM 727 for vacuum tube machines and the 729 for transistor machines. Both the vacuum tube and most transistor models use the same card readers, card punches and line printers that were introduced with the 701. These units, the IBM 711, 721 and 716, are based on IBM accounting machine technology and even include plugboard control panels. They are relatively slow and it was common for 7000 series installations to include an IBM 1401, with its much faster peripherals, to do card-to-tape and tape-to-line-printer operations off-line. Three later machines, the 7010, the 7040 and the 7044, adopted peripherals from the midline IBM 1400 series. Some of the technology for the 7030 was used in data channels and peripheral devices on other 7000 series computers, e.g., 7340 Hypertape.

First architecture (701)

Main article: IBM 701
IBM 701 operator's console
An IBM 704 installation

Known as the Defense Calculator while in development in the IBM Poughkeepsie Laboratory, this machine was formally unveiled April 7, 1953 as the IBM 701 Electronic Data Processing Machine.

Data formats

Numbers are either 36 bits or 18 bits long, only fixed point. (See: Why 36 bits?)

Instruction format

Instructions were 18 bits long, single address.

To expand the memory from 2048 to 4096 words, a 33rd instruction was added that uses the most significant bit of its address field to select the bank. (This instruction was probably created using the "No OP" instruction, which appears to have been the only instruction with unused bits, as it originally ignored its address field. However documentation on this new instruction is not currently available.)


Processor registers consisted of:


2,048 or 4,096 – 36-bit binary words with six-bit characters

Scientific architecture (704/709/7090/7094)

IBM 7090's at NASA's Project Mercury, 1962.

IBM's 36-bit scientific architecture was used for a variety of computation-intensive applications. First machines were the vacuum-tube 704 and 709, followed by the transistorized 7090, 7094, 7094-II, and the lower-cost 7040 and 7044. The ultimate model was the Direct Coupled System (DCS) consisting of a 7094 linked to a 7044 that handled input and output operations.

Data formats

Numbers are 36 bits long, both fixed point and floating point. (See: Why 36 bits?)

Instruction format

The basic instruction format is a three-bit prefix, fifteen-bit decrement, three-bit tag, and fifteen-bit address. The prefix field specifies the class of instruction. The decrement field often contains an immediate operand to modify the results of the operation, or is used to further define the instruction type. The three bits of the tag specify three (seven in the 7094) index registers, the contents of which are subtracted from the address to produce an effective address. The address field either contains an address or an immediate operand.

Vacuum tube logic module from a 700 series IBM computer.
Transistorized IBM Standard Modular System (SMS) card used in the 7000 series.

Processor registers consisted of:

The accumulator (and multiplier-quotient) registers operate in signed magnitude format.

The Index registers operate using two's complement format and when used to modify an instruction address are subtracted from the address in the instruction. On machines with three index registers, if the tag has two or three bits set (i.e. selected multiple registers) then their values were ORed together before being subtracted. The IBM 7094, with seven index registers has a "compatibility" mode to permit programs from earlier machines that used this trick to continue to be used.

The Sense Indicators permit interaction with the operator via panel switches and lights.


The 709/7090 series use Data Synchronizer Channels for high speed input/output, such as tape and disk. The basic DSCs, e.g., 7607, execute their own simple programs from the computer memory that controls the transfer of data between memory and the I/O devices; the more advanced 7909 supports more sophisticated channel programs and an 8-bit interface. Punched card I/O and high speed printing were often performed by transferring magnetic tapes to an off-line IBM 1401. Later, the data channels were used to connect a 7090 to a 7040 or a 7094 to a 7044 to form the IBM 7094/7044 Direct Coupled System (DCS). In that configuration, the 7044, which could use faster 1400 series peripherals, primarily handled I/O.

FORTRAN assembly program

The FORTRAN Assembly Program (FAP) is an assembler for the 709, 7090, and 7094 under IBM's makeshift FMS (Fortran Monitor System) operating system. An earlier assembler was SCAT (SHARE Compiler-Assembler-Translator). Macros were added to FAP by Bell Laboratories (BE-FAP), and the final 7090/7094 assembler was IBMAP, under IBSYS.

Its pseudo-operation BSS, used to reserve memory, is the origin of the common name of the "BSS section", still used in many assembly languages today for designating reserved memory address ranges of the type not having to be saved in the executable image.

Commercial architecture (702/705/7080)

IBM 702
IBM 7080

The IBM 702 and IBM 705 are similar and the 705 can run many 702 programs without modification, but they are not completely compatible.

The IBM 7080 is a transistorized version of the 705, with various improvements. For backward compatibility it can be run in 705 I mode, 705 II mode, 705 III mode, or full 7080 mode.

Data format

Data is represented by a variable-length string of characters terminated by a Record mark.

Instruction format

Five characters: one character opcode and four character address – OAAAA


1400 series architecture (7010)

The 700/7000 commercial architecture inspired the very successful IBM 1400 series of mid-sized business computers. In turn, IBM later introduced a mainframe version of the IBM 1410 called the IBM 7010.

Data format
Instruction format

None, all instructions operated on memory. However, fifteen five-character fields in fixed locations in low memory can be treated as index registers, whose values can be added to the address specified in an instruction. Also, certain internal registers that would today be invisible, such as the addresses of the characters being currently processed, are exposed to the programmer.


Decimal architecture (7070/7072/7074)

IBM 7074

The IBM 7070, IBM 7072, and IBM 7074 are decimal, fixed-word-length machines. They use a ten-digit word like the smaller and older IBM 650, but are not instruction set compatible with the 650.

Data format
Instruction format


year category logic memory
decimal commercial scientific supercomputer
1952 IBM 701 vacuum tubes Williams tubes
1953 IBM 702
1954 IBM 705 IBM 704 core memory
1958 IBM 709
IBM 7070 transistors
1959 IBM 7090
1960 IBM 7074
1961 IBM 7072 IBM 7080 IBM 7030
1962 IBM 7010 IBM 7094
1963 IBM 7040
IBM 7044
1964 IBM 7094 II

An IBM 7074 was used by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service in 1962.[2]

The IBM 7700 Data Acquisition System is not a member of the IBM 7000 series, despite its number and its announcement date of December 2, 1963.


All of the 700 and 7000 series machines predate standard performance measurement tools such as the Whetstone (1972), Dhrystone (1984), LINPACK (1979), or Livermore loops (1986) benchmarks.

In the table below, the Gibson and Knight measurements report speed, where higher numbers are better; the TRIDIA measurement reports time, where lower numbers are better.

Model Gibson
TRIDIA program
IBM 705 m1,2 0.50
IBM 705 m3 0.38
IBM 709 21
IBM 7030 372 15.58
IBM 7040 148
IBM 7044 109 74
IBM 7090 139 66
IBM 7094 176 31.35
IBM 7094 II 257 217 16.50


  1. IBM-7010
  2. "Big-Brother 7074 is watching you" by Robert Gannon, Popular Science, March 1963
  3. M. Phister, Jr., Data Processing Technology and Economics, 2nd ed., 1979; Table II.2.11.1
  4. "Final Report on 64/6600 FORTRAN Version 3.0", Control Data Corporation, 1966 June 6; section I.B, pp. 3-4; at
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