TOTD 2018-4-30: Trivia Question

In the 1920s and 1930s what accounted for one third of IBMs sales?

I will put the spoiler down below. In the comments let us know if you guessed correctly or missed it. For those who get it wrong, you will have to spend the day in the Ratburger.org stocks.

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29 thoughts on “TOTD 2018-4-30: Trivia Question”

  1. I don’t what was great about them in 1920s and 1930s, but I loved my IBM typewriter in the 1980s.   It was an IBM Selectric.

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  2. TempTime:
    I don’t what was great about them in 1920s and 1930s, but I loved my IBM typewriter in the 1980s.   It was an IBM Selectric.

    What’s a typewriter? 😉

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  3. I guessed a machine, e.g., a mechanical calculator. Off to the stocks for me.
    [Edit. More time in the stocks for giving away the answer]

    [spoiler title="Answer in DocLor's Comment"]
    Punched cards bring back unpleasant memories of batch processing on timeshare systems. A miserable time. Paper tape too. Ugh. [/spoiler]

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  4. In phrasing the original question, it’s important to distinguish “sales” from “revenue”.  I think the latter word was what was intended.  The reason is that prior to the 1980s, when they shifted their business model in reaction to anti-trust actions, IBM did not sell most of their machines, but rather rented or leased them to customers.  This provided a stable revenue source with less of the business cycle ups and downs of a sales-based business, and it also allowed IBM to introduce new products on their own schedule without worrying about cannibalising their own market.  (They were also notorious for continuing to lease long-obsolete machines at the original price to customers who didn’t know any better.)

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  5. TempTime:
    …I loved my IBM typewriter in the 1980s.   It was an IBM Selectric.

    I had an original IBM Selectric I bought used in 1973.  I used that typewriter up until 1991 when I left the U.S.  (Selectrics had motors which weren’t compatible with 230 volt 50 Hz power in Europe, and even a transformer wouldn’t fix the frequency problem.)  Once, in the mid 1980s, the typewriter broke (I forget exactly how), and I called IBM service.  A lady showed up with a big case of tools and typewriter parts and, after removing the cover on the machine, exclaimed “This typewriter is older than I am.”  Nonetheless, about half an hour later it was working good as new and never failed again.

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  6. John Walker:
    In phrasing the original question, it’s important to distinguish “sales” from “revenue”.  I think the latter word was what was intended.  The reason is that prior to the 1980s, when they shifted their business model in reaction to anti-trust actions, IBM did not sell most of their machines, but rather rented or leased them to customers.  This provided a stable revenue source with less of the business cycle ups and downs of a sales-based business, and it also allowed IBM to introduce new products on their own schedule without worrying about cannibalising their own market.  (They were also notorious for continuing to lease long-obsolete machines at the original price to customers who didn’t know any better.)

    Here is the quote, “… for more than a third of IBM’s total sales.”

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  7. What is the only IBM product used at Fourmilab?

    The answer might be considered a spoiler for the original question, so don’t read the answer to this item until you’ve answered the main post.

    [spoiler]At Fourmilab, IBM is a tape vendor.  The daily backups of the Ratburger and Fourmilab servers are written on these tapes.

    IBM LTO-5 tape cartridge
    [/spoiler]

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  8. [Edit. Some fun stuff for people who know the answer in the spoiler.]
    [spoiler title="spoiler"]

    My dad kept punchcards in his shirt pocket to write down gag ideas for the cartoons he drew. He had shoeboxes full of folded punchcards with pencilled in ideas. I still have some.

    The cards are faded but the gags are still funny! [/spoiler]

     

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  9. 10 Cents:

    TempTime:
    I don’t what was great about them in 1920s and 1930s, but I loved my IBM typewriter in the 1980s.   It was an IBM Selectric.

    What’s a typewriter? 😉

    A keyboard with animated ‘keys’ that make really cool sounds.

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  10. TempTime:

    10 Cents:

    TempTime:
    I don’t what was great about them in 1920s and 1930s, but I loved my IBM typewriter in the 1980s.   It was an IBM Selectric.

    What’s a typewriter? 😉

    A keyboard with animated ‘keys’ that make really cool sounds.

    What ever rings your bell, TempTime. 😉

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  11. TempTime:
    A keyboard with animated ‘keys’ that make really cool sounds.

    I sold a program in 1988 which made a Commodore 64 keyboard sound like a typewriter.

    I used my 1984 IBM PC/AT keyboard which had the feel and sound of a Selectric as long as I could.  Eventually, with the advent of USB keyboards, there was no way to adapt its original IBM PC interface.  Also, it didn’t have F11 and F12 which, unfortunately, some programs I count on require.

     

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  12. @10cents, Office Machines was my favorite Office Practices class in high school if only because of the sounds of all those clacking, whirling, whooshing, tapping, clicking machines:  manual typewriters, mechanical adding machines, electronic adding machines, registers, electric typewriters even the mimeograph machine had it’s own ‘voice’.   It was like an orchestra in there!   Can’t recall at the moment if my favorite sounds were made by the comptometer or the rotary calculator, but the rotary calculator was very cool  🙂

    Even though the manual typewriter was well on to be a thing of the past, it was the first machine we all had to learn, and we hated it!  Took some serious finger strength on those old things.

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  13. John Walker:

    TempTime:
    A keyboard with animated ‘keys’ that make really cool sounds.

    I sold a program in 1988 which made a Commodore 64 keyboard sound like a typewriter.

    I used my 1984 IBM PC/AT keyboard which had the feel and sound of a Selectric as long as I could.  Eventually, with the advent of USB keyboards, there was no way to adapt its original IBM PC interface.  Also, it didn’t have F11 and F12 which, unfortunately, some programs I count on require.

    Commodore 64 was my first computer. I bought a letter quality dot matrix printer. The computer was the keyboard or is that the other way around?

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  14. TempTime:
    @10cents, Office Machines was my favorite Office Practices class in high school if only because of the sounds of all those clacking, whirling, whooshing, tapping, clicking machines:  manual typewriters, mechanical adding machines, electronic adding machines, registers, electric typewriters even the mimeograph machine had it’s own ‘voice’.   It was like an orchestra in there!   Can’t recall at the moment if my favorite sounds were made by the comptometer or the rotary calculator, but the rotary calculator was very cool  🙂

    Even though the manual typewriter was well on to be a thing of the past, it was the first machine we all had to learn, and we hated it!  Took some serious finger strength on those old things.

    I remember typing class. That is how I knew Dan Rather’s memo was a fake. It was just to hard to center things and get a superscript right.

    Isn’t it surprising how long the typewriter in one form or another lasted? Over a 100 years! Even now the input to a computer is from a “typewriter”, right?

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  15. 10 Cents:
    Commodore 64 was my first computer. I bought a letter quality dot matrix printer. The computer was the keyboard or is that the other way around?

    Well, the way computer old-timers thought of it was that the computer was in the keyboard.  What was remarkable is that just a few years earlier, buying just a keyboard, without anything else, would have cost much more than a Commodore 64.  That’s what happens when you take things which were made in the thousands and start to make them in the tens of millions.

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  16. 10 Cents:
    Isn’t it surprising how long the typewriter in one form or another lasted? Over a 100 years! Even now the input to a computer is from a “typewriter”, right?

    And the screwy keyboard we use today was designed to slow down typists and keep the type bars of mechanical typewriters from colliding with one another.

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  17. I saw a Commodore 64 once at a friends house (still looked brand new even though at the time I saw it, it was quite old).  I could not figure out how to make use of it efficiently.   Am I remembering correctly that it used a cassette tape?

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  18. John Walker:
    And the screwy keyboard we use today was designed to slow down typists and keep the type bars of mechanical typewriters from colliding with one another.

    I actually recall ‘crossing’ a couple once or twice.  🙂

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  19. TempTime:
    I saw a Commodore 64 once at a friends house (still looked brand new even though at the time I saw it, it was quite old).  I could not figure out how to make use of it efficiently.   Am I remembering correctly that it used a cassette tape?

    Many people used cassette tapes.  There was a floppy disc, the 1541, arguably the worst storage peripheral ever made for a personal computer, which combined the speed of a cassette tape and the reliability of…dunno…maybe a clay tablet.  It would often fail to eject a disc, and you had to use a knife to pry it out.  Its internal power supply ran so hot people would joke about using it to keep their coffee warm.

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  20. John Walker:

    TempTime:
    I saw a Commodore 64 once at a friends house (still looked brand new even though at the time I saw it, it was quite old).  I could not figure out how to make use of it efficiently.   Am I remembering correctly that it used a cassette tape?

    Many people used cassette tapes.  There was a floppy disc, the 1541, arguably the worst storage peripheral ever made for a personal computer, which combined the speed of a cassette tape and the reliability of…dunno…maybe a clay tablet.  It would often fail to eject a disc, and you had to use a knife to pry it out.  Its internal power supply ran so hot people would joke about using it to keep their coffee warm.

    I had one of those. It worked great. I don’t know what you are talking about. My coffee never got cold.

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  21. My parents have their Selectric still.

    They just got rid of their old typewriter, though, and gave it to my son.

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