Mainframe of the computer
History

Maintenance every Monday from 6 a.m. — the first mainframe computer at Bosch

5 minutes

2016-09-15

In October 1970, the first mainframe computer was finally installed at the largest Bosch location in the world in Feuerbach, near Stuttgart.

Why mainframe? This term originally referred to the huge cabinets that used to be required to house the hardware needed to process information. It is hard for us to imagine now, but this computer took up an area equivalent to an open-plan office with space for at least twenty people.

Installation of the Bosch IBM 370/165 mainframe 1971
Installation of the Bosch IBM 370/165 mainframe at the Feuerbach location, Germany, 1971

The IBM 370 series, 165 model was the pride and joy of the young community of IT specialists at Bosch. It was used for order processing and central warehousing control. The IBM 370 was more than capable of handling this, as it only used up about one quarter of its roughly one megabyte storage capacity. It could therefore also be used for other tasks, such as payroll operations at four other locations. However, a large part of the memory was taken up by the operating system alone — around 600 kilobytes. These days we measure memory in terabytes, so that sounds like a drop in the ocean, but it was right at the forefront of what was technologically possible at the time.

Control panel of the Bosch IBM 370/165 mainframe
Control panel of the Bosch IBM 370/165 mainframe at the Feuerbach location, Germany, 1971

Overall, this mainframe was more of a machine than modern computers are, with a generator that would be enough to provide emergency power for a small hospital, 150 liters of circulating water kept in motion by two pumps, and finally the army of 120 associates that looked after the 370 — the associates in the material warehouse, the specialists in the cutting room for processing the lists on fanfold paper, the operators in the computer room, and the employees responsible for swapping out the magnetic storage tapes and punch cards.

Magnetic tape recording and printer room for the Bosch IBM 370/165 mainframe
Magnetic tape recording and printer room for the Bosch IBM 370/165 mainframe at the Feuerbach location, Germany, 1971

As was common practice in the 1960s and 1970s, this computer was leased rather than bought. The lease included maintenance, so every Monday the cutting-edge computer had scheduled downtime from 6 a.m. till 1 p.m. The rest of the time, the technicians and administrative assistants made full use of the computer. It was in operation in three uninterrupted shifts from Monday till Saturday.

Dietrich Kuhlgatz

Since 1998 I have been at Bosch. I’m working in the Historical Communications department as spokesperson and researcher, in charge of all product history requests. I also take care of contacts to technology and transportation museums.
Before joining Bosch, I studied in history and philosophy at Universities of Konstanz and Hamburg. After graduating, I was editor of a scientific journal and research associate at Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin.

Picture of Dietrich Kuhlgatz

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