How to spot an old IBMer

If you work (or have worked) for IBM then you have probably met many old timers.   IBMers who have been with the company for 25 years or more (or even 50!).

But how do you spot an old IBMer?

Is it by the cut of their suit?   Not sure about that anymore.

An IBM General Systems Division marketing rep in New Jersey in 1978.

It’s certainly not by their extensive beards.

Development of the 3800 printer, taken in the early 1970s by Ray Froess (

Is it by the size of their laptop?  I hope not!

IBM 5100 Portable Computer (1975)

No… you can spot them by their use of certain words and phrases.

Here are a few I can think of… you may know more.   Try this out as a test on someone who you think is an old IBMer and see how they go:

1)  While showing a powerpoint presentation they keep saying they are showing foils (despite having not seen an overhead projector in over 10 years).

2)  They refer to disk storage as DASD (pronounced Dazz-Dee).

3)  They still call a Sales Rep a Marketing Rep (check out Buck Roger’s book The IBM Way to see why).

4)  They refer to their inbox as their reader (see #6 below).

5)  They refer to the IBM corporate personnel database as callup (it has been a Web based application called BluePages for around 15 years).

6)  If you say I will PROFS you (or I will send you a PROFS mail), they don’t blink an eye-lid  (PROFs was IBM’s Mainframe based mail system, replaced by OfficeVision which was replaced by Lotus Notes in the 1990s).

7)  If you say you F4ed or PF4ed an email…  they know what you mean (it meant that you deleted it in PROFS/OfficeVision).

8)  They reveal they are a veteran of IBM Typewriters by regaling you with their knowledge of Selectric Rotate Tapes.

9)  They can name the dimensions of a punched card.

10)  You look around the office and they are the only one still wearing a tie.

Go and test it out today.  See if you can find someone who can score 100%.

And have a great weekend…

About Anthony Vandewerdt

I am an IT Professional who lives and works in Melbourne Australia. This blog is totally my own work. It does not represent the views of any corporation. Constructive and useful comments are very very welcome.
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144 Responses to How to spot an old IBMer

  1. Pingback: How to spot an old IBMer - The Business of IT Storage Blog - IBM Storage Community

  2. And they wear watches to tell the time (probably analog watches, preferably with Roman numerals), and they think Twitter is a time-waster, since we young whippersnappers (i.e. under 50 years old) only use it to tell everyone what we had for breakfast. (And you can follow me on!/AIXDownUnder, no age restrictions)

  3. Tim Miller says:

    Three characteristics of an old person (not necessarily an IBMer):

    1) wears a wristwatch (captured above)
    2) has a “home phone”
    3) gets a newspaper delivered

  4. Bever says:

    Related to Profs a lot of IBM-ers will send you a ‘note’ instead of a e-mail. Note was the cmd on Profs to start a new msg.

  5. Gary Miller (Corrales, NewMexico, USA) says:

    I joined IBM in 1961 and retired in 1991. Even now I view a really good tie on a newsreader as one which has stripes. I especially like ties with English “from the heart” (slanted from the left shoulder to the right) stripes. Unfortunately, my 14 pound wing tips (Florsheim Imperials in my case) are long gone.

    • Peter Chomley says:

      Gary, a “real” IBM tie of the ’70s had printing on the back … caused by the tie swinging between the golf ball print ribbon and the paper when you reached over to “page down” the print-out behind the 2741….
      (Famous in the 70s)

  6. Dan Hicks says:

    They want to be buried “nine-edge to the slot”.

    BTW, there,s a story behind that picture of the guy holding the 5100 “Portable Computer”. It’s an actor hired for the job (no real IBM engineer would have been strong enough to hold that 55 pound monstrosity in the air like that, even if by some miracle they had been photogenic). When he arrived for the shot he was wearing a Hawaiian shirt and striped pants. They sent out for a shirt and tie and tried to hide the pants behind the 5100. I see now that they didn’t succeed.

  7. MrOdysseus says:

    Very true. One of the IBM-ers I work with has been with IBM for 38 years, and he said that he gave up the tie a long time! :)

  8. Mike Shore says:

    Older IBMers still wear ties and wing-tips to church — and in Florida where I retired that is really OLD. When they donate old furniture to Salvation Army you can see the move stickers on the back. Finally, they tear-up when they drive by locations such as 1,000 Westchester Ave., Tucson, and Kingston.

  9. Kerry Swart says:

    They say I re-ipled instead of I rebooted

  10. Bill Van Vugt says:

    I still have the wingtops I wore on my first day at IBM(Corfam no less) and I know how TJW was buried(9 edge in, face down). However, I no refer to memory as “core” . That took some time to adjust to.

  11. Walt Gray says:

    PROFS wasn’t exclusive to IBM. The White House used it also and that’s how the world discovered that delete though we may, emails never go away (as in Irangate).

    And I wonder if any of today’s IBMers refer to “now” as “at this point in time.”

    • Mike Gerhart says:

      I’ve been with IBM for 35 yrs (Started in Kingston in 1977) and I only wore a tie on the 1st day of work and never used PROFS, I used RDRLIST, it was the backdoor into your notes (e-mails) without having the restrictions PROFS had built in. I do remember traveling with the IBM Portable computer in the early 90’s, it wasn’t a pretty sight lugging this box around the airport. Laptops were a welcome invention :-)

      • Tom Pauncz says:

        Isn’t that why they were affectionately known as “Luggables”? LOL…

      • Jack Fetner says:

        I joined IBM in 1966 and retired in 1996. We referred to the 5100 portable as the “lugabout”. Female marketing representatives usually had to find a male cohort to help with the sales call if they were going to demonstrate the IBM “portable computer”.

      • Jim Hauck says:

        I just bought a 5100 with the printer and tape drive, and it’s in great shape, The engineering and quality construction that went into this is pretty incredible. I hope to get it all up and running again if at all possible. I never worked for IBM, but it’s cool to hear the stories and anecdotes of people that did. If anyone who worked on these machines in any capacity wants to contact me please do!

      • Dan Hicks says:

        I worked on the 5100. I sent you a note off-line.

      • Jerry Guritzky says:

        I worked on the 5100 too…

    • Manny Gonzalez says:

      If I recall correctly, PROFS, was created at Watson for their use, but then was “sold” to the White House. They thought it was exclusive to them. That’s how Oliver North
      got caught deleting emails.

      • Bernie Levy says:

        I worked on a project to create (one of?) the first interactive online systems for the 360 series. I worked for SBC Wheaton on contract to IBM DPD for Goddard Space Flight Center (Greenbelt, MD). We called it RITS; it later became (forget the name) marketed by IBM, and we think at least some of the code got into TSO.

  12. John (Jack) Rieves says:

    Brings back memories. I kept the tie but I wore a colored shirt for my last 10 or so years in IBM.
    Once a manager asked me where I kept the batteries for the shirt.

    • I blogged a long time ago that I worked on 3800 printers and 3890 cheque sorters for many years in white shirts (with all the attendant filth from toner, ink and grease)… where today I often wear black shirts, but in a totally clean environment…. nuts!

      • Geza Bruendl says:

        Anthony, I installed the very first 3890 (OCR version) in Europe! greetings Geza Bruendl IBM retiree Vienna, Austria

  13. Cliff says:

    At a local plant anniversary reception, several of us retirees wore white shirts and striped ties, just for fun to recall the old dress code days . A younger IBMer (we had more service years than she was old) asked if we were part of a band???

  14. Ken W. Sayers says:

    Two artifacts of “old” IBM come to mind. If you hear someone say “buck slip,” chances are they probably go back in the business to sometime in the late 20th century. And for those really old IBmers — like me — a “think pad” will always be a little paper-based notebook carried in a shirt or jacket pocket, and not a chip-based computer to sit on your lap. I love that original think pad so much, I still have a supply of refill pads on hand to keep it forever young.

    • Manny Gonzalez says:

      I wish I had saved a copy of each of the “buck slips” that each group used.
      Talk about a way to remember names !

  15. Pete Alban says:

    CE/FE/SE , 1stline,2ndline,Project & Functional Mgr. Been all of em’ and wish I had one box of 50/81’s and a 124 KP to make some chips. Could still “wire a board” in my sleep and code RPGII till the MFCM eats cards. Smashed core with a sledge hammer and selectrics in the seventies to get rid of em’. Opened Tucson, closed Tucson, watched the suit/tie regime disappear … still think
    that was a big mistake for IBM. Still have some laptops in the basement and a box of diskettes I use for cup holders ! Retired 14yrs, loved it all, miss it all . Played in the IBM weekly band and sung “Ever Onward” in San Jose 50 years ago. Good luck to all ……..

    • Manny Gonzalez says:

      Pete Alban, I still have several boxes of 5081’s. They are great in the wood shop. You can write on them in your hand and they don’t fold. Fit in your pocket for lists.
      Was on a “loading dock” and a pallet of new punch cards were to be thrown away.
      Told the dock master, put in the corner I will remove them for you.

      I started at IBM, Kingston, 1969, in what is now Information Systems, then it was called
      “Machine Accounting”. We didn’t get your first 360/50 until 1970.

      IBM was a great company.

      • Mike Gerhart says:

        Manny, we’ve been looking for those 5081 boxes…. haha

      • Baird Smith says:

        Yes — you can spot us in the supermarket with our shopping list on those punch cards. If you saved a box, they’ll last forever.

      • Gerell McCann says:

        Manny. IBM is still a great company. The great ones never die.

      • Terry Renick says:

        I am still seriously addicted to those little buggers. I worked for a Director in NSD Field Tech Ops that told me….”throw away the foils and put your notes on one side of a tab card…if it takes more than one side…they won’t be listening”!!!…He had a point. Indispensable media….Best to all of the Best

      • Manny Gonzalez says:

        Another use for a 5081. It’s always been said, that if you don’t have it done in one page,
        people aren’t going to read it. But to have your “notes” on one side of a 5081 is perfect.
        Thanks for a new use for an “old friend”.

  16. If you tell them a total random 4-digit number, they can tell you a 2hour-story about a great IBM product with exactly that name. :-)

    • Manny Gonzalez says:

      Sebastian, your comment made me laugh. I have somewhere an old card stock list of all the IBM machines. I started with 4xx’s card machines and ended with RISC systems.

  17. Brad Rollins says:

    If they’re male and remember listening to the “Dress for Success” lecture in A-Mod, they’ll also still be wearing knee-high socks and always wear their tie two fingers below their belt buckle. Good advice, even in this day and age…

  18. Rod Thompson says:

    Old IBMers still conclude their E-Mails with ‘Regards,’

    Rod Thompson

  19. Carol says:

    I have two selectric elements on my desk along with the “THINK” sign;

  20. Claire Sandbothe says:

    I didn’t score 100% but I still support an application on VM ! ANd, my first business card address was @ehone . I remember going to 4 ehone complexes and now we are back to one!

  21. Jim Miller says:

    Worked for Big Blue 41 years, from 080 sorters to all of S/360….in marketing, product development, software development and education. Do not have a white shirt or wing tips, but think they’re part of being dressed. Also remember that socks that came up on your leg a long way,
    only dark blue suits and a hat (!!) were part of it all. Still have Think pads, some 5081’s and blue binders. Have a copy”A Business and its Beliefs” by TJ senior and “Father, Son & Co.” by TJ jr, as well as my old sales manual.Was prime example that IBM stood for “I’ve been moved”, even spent two magnificent years in Aussieland.
    I was a US Marine, and always thought working for IBM carried the same level of pride for me as being a Marine!!
    Semper Fi all you good guys!!
    Jim Miller

    • Peter Chomley says:

      Jim, which years were you in Oz?

    • Jim.. I remember you from Menol Park… Jerry Guritzky

    • Pete Alban says:

      Jim, couldn’t agree more. The pride I had in Navy/UDT continued with IBM in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and the respect they gave each of us employees as we progressed and took care of business, was mirrored back in our loyalty. Disappointing to see the “class” that company embodied is now a focus of humor for the young set. Oh well …. as hc would say, “what does it matter”, and another pillar of the greatest American culture crumbles.

  22. Gerell McCann says:

    At one time I was instructor and class manager for Entry Level Marketing Education, Dallas attended by all new hires to the marketing divisions. We had IBM Execs come in to speak to each class. One class had some “wise guys” from (I won’t say where) who wanted to test our guest speaker. He asked the speaker “I’ve looked everywhere and asked everyone where does it say IBMers are required to wear white shirts, suits, dress shoes and ties. I cannot find any place that says those are requirements.”
    The speaker thought for a moment and then answered “You know, I’ve been with IBM for 43 years and I don’t think I have ever seen that written down anyplace either. But, I also don’t remember anyone in IBM getting promoted who didn’t wear a white shirt, suite, dress shoes, and a tie.”
    You can imagine the positive response the rest of the class members got from that response. They were rolling in the isles.

  23. Gerell McCann says:

    Another one of my many stories regarding IBM dress code dates back to when I became an IBMer in 1969. I graduated with my BS degree in math and joined IBM in Dallas. I had not been around IBMers because I was from a rural area of Louisiana where there no IBM offices or workers. But I interviewed in Dallas and got the job. My IBM office in Dallas sent me and one other new hire off to a 3 1/2 month class in Endicott, NY without telling us what the dress code was. He and I completed our prereq study in the office after hours so we didn’t see many IBMers before going off to the class. Since I just got out of college and had few dress cloths I went shopping before going to NY for the class. I picked out five great outfits of HSM sports coats and slacks along with colored shirts and bright ties. I just knew I would be among the best dressed at the class. The first day of class the class manager said something like this: “As I look around I see some who are dressed properly and some who are not. You all need to adhere to the dress code of …blah….blah….blah even though you’ll be in class at night at a plant site building.” I and the other guy from Dallas were sitting side by side that first day and looked around the room and saw that we were the only 2 of about 75 in the room that was not wearing a suit. We sunk very low in our seats. I had to go out and buy 2 complete suit outfits, including the white shirts and conservative ties, to get through the class. I still have one of those outfits to remember that day.

  24. Terry Baker says:

    I have a story very similar to Gerell McCann’s on the long-ago dress code. Before I was hired in 1956 I had an interview at what was then World Headquarters in New York. I had had an interview elsewhere the previous day and had returned to college on a late train that evening with my suit all rumpled. So I went to the IBM interview in a pair of charcoal gray slacks, a blue blazer, a blue Oxford button-down shirt, and a conservative tie. The interview was with an executive who shall remain nameless but was very definitely old school. The interview seemed to be going well until the very end, when he harrumphed and said very sternly (I remember the exact words to this day), “Young man, if you are fortunate enough to come to work for us, we will expect you to wear a suit and a white shirt to work each day.” After that admonition I wasn’t very optimistic about my chances, but I got hired in spite of my slovenliness. (I ran into the executive years later and we joked about the incident.)

  25. Bob Wiser says:

    Gerell, I went to CE Basic in Endicott in 1968. One of my classmates came to class in a very pale yellow shirt. You had to look real close to see that it was not a white shirt. The instructor told him to go back to his hotel at lunch and come back wearing a white shirt or don’t come back.

    Still and all, what a great company. Proud of my 31 years. Honored to have been a small part of a great institution. And, although retired for 14 years, STILL an IBM’er!

    • Paul Olbrich says:

      Bob, maybe that guy in the pastel yellow shirt was me. I hired on in 1967, and went to CE basic in Endicott in 1968. I was admonished for wearing the shirt and I explained that my Branch Office allowed us to wear pastel shirts. The bottom line was, my Branch Manger had to come to Endicott to explain. I remember to this day when he walked into the meeting wearing a pastel yellow shirt. The meeting did not last too long. I retired in 2000 and I too am honored to have been a small part of a great company!!!

  26. Jack Hubbard 546036 says:

    Would someone tell me where I can get a box of card stock. I need to finish my shopping list…..

  27. Bernie Levy says:

    My first 6 1/2 years at IBM were actually at a subsidiary called Service Bureau Corporation, from 1964 to 1970 (in Wheaton, MD and later White Plains, NY). Even though this company was created by IBM as part of a consent decree to help avoid some sort of violation, SBC had a very relaxed dress code as compared to IBM proper.

    Most of my suits, shirts, and ties did not fit the strict IBM dress code of dark (blue or black) and white; those I wore were of various colors and patterns. I started growing a beard early on, which has never completely left my face to this day. Even after I left SBC for several years and returned to IBM itself (in the DP Division, later ISG and other groups), my beard remained and my dress never strictly adhered to the old standards.


  28. Clark Jackson 547458 says:

    Hubbard, you never did have any class! (Just kidding, glad you’re still alive! And hopefully you’re the Jack Hubbard I remember)



    • Peter Vander Sar says:

      Bill, it’s great to hear you’re still around – 31 years after meeting you in San Jose while on assignment from Canada. Do you still take a crew surf fishing in Half Moon Bay?
      I bet you were not wearing a white shirt when you were experimenting with magnetic coatings on spinning disks
      Regarding dress code – not long after joining in 1969 there was a newspaper item about an IBM executive in New York commenting negatively on the coloured shirt worn by an employee he ran into in an elevator.
      In Canada the dress code was a little more relaxed. I posted a note on the bulletin board at the exit of the cafeteria offering for sale “six light blue shirts, never been worn”, with the name and phone number of IBM Canada’s president, Jack Brent.
      Starting the next day, the posting of notes on the bulletin board was centrally controlled.
      I loved my 30 years at IBM – and still miss the people and challenges 12 years later.

    • fritz1e says:

      Bill Donnelly, you were the visiting professor that got me an interview g with Ron Sullivan at the Life of a Tower and I ended up working as a SE (Systems Engineer) and my specility was DASD. You worked at Morehouse and Atlanta University in the early 80’s. I hope you are doing well.

      Gordon F. Ellison

    • Wayne Giroux says:

      Bill! Great to see you here (though this was posted some time ago). I know some from Building 10 are trying to find your email address.

      All these comments bring back similar memories … do you still have the pool shots video? Would love to see it again. Remember the golf shot video with the swearing workmen? … Wayne

  30. Connie Scott says:

    Doesn’t anyone still have a “Think” pad?

  31. Dave VanBronkhorst says:

    Don’t forget, we – ooops, THEY – all have one of those 2×6-inch, tilted “Think” signs somewhere in their baggage. Maybe even in a foreign language. I had one that said “Denke” (German). I had it on my desk in an Air Force facility once. The Duty Officer came by on his rounds, towing a visitor. He stepped intop my office, not realizing I was there – saw me, and performed an introduction: ” This is one of our IBM contractors …. Mr. ….uh… Denke!”

    • Barry Udvardy says:

      Hey, Dave, I have one of those “Think” signs from my 19 years with IBM before they sold us to Loral who then “merged” with Lockheed Martin. Still some of my best and most creative time was in Kingston, New York developing power supplies and power systems for IBM machines including the 3270 series of terminals! Gotta love that High Voltage lab! Dave, will see you tonight 4/17/12 at Myrtle Beach for the golf outing!

  32. Merrilee Harter says:

    I only had 21 years with IBM – 1973-1994 – but have very fond memories – Store Systems and CX were my highlights. Yes, I have a couple “Think” pads with just a few refills left. And the triangular “Think” sign. Great company to work for, amazing and intense experiences, I woudn’t trade them. Hope that is still true for current employees.

    • Dan Hicks says:

      Unfortunately, the “new IBM” sucks. Good people being laid off right and left, everyone scared of their shadow.

      • IBM SMC says:

        I’m sad to here you state this and I’ve heard a few IBM employees state the same, internally. I cannot disagree with you more! IBM is still a great company to work for. Change has come to this company like it should to adjust, survive and prosper. IBM does not pay the best, give the best benefits nor give life long positions. What makes IBM great is the opportunity for all of us employees to grow, innovate, create. We are what makes the company great now and for the future. If you (IBMer) don’t like what you are doing today, simply apply to do something else anywhere in the world. What company can give you the flexibility to change careers on/to any continent in the world. I’ve been an IBMer for many years now and hope to retire here, but I know that is mostly in my own hands. Its all about mindset, either you look at change positively or you fear it.

      • says:

        I have to agree with Dan. IBM has cut their employees pensions, medical and no raises. Yet, they continue to provide very well for their execs. Not a company that rewards for performance!

      • Alan Harris says:

        IBM spent the strength they had in people (vs. competitors) a long time ago. The proof of that will come when skills get tight. IBM will be just another kid on the block. Check that view now from a highly skilled engineer at Google.

  33. Wayne F. Beauchemin says:

    We joke about the white shirts, ties and wing tips but it really was a feeling of pride dressing each day to work for such a great company. Having served in the Navy aboard ship with discipline in dress and then going to work for IBM with dress discipline it was a nice match. I still like to dress respectable for the ocassion. No shirt and tie but comfortable slacks, shirt and sweater. It has to be the 32 years at IBM. Where ever we go I look around and check out the retired IBM folks and see that same pride in dress. Have you ever seen an IBM person on the golf course in shabby dress? No…. they have the latest in clothing, clubs and gadgets.

    Nice article. Thanks for sharing. Got to go try my new Ping putter……….

    • Perry Bowker says:

      Another apparently useless tradition – at Sales School in Poughkeepsie in the 60’s, all the trainees were expected to report for sing song first thing in the morning – led by a professional pianist, no less. We sang some of the IBM songs and other stuff like “Stout-Hearted Men”. Seems hokey, but it sure got the blood moving and all eyes were open and minds alert for the day’s classes.

      • Manny Gonzalez says:

        Sales were a basis for which IBM existed. I was in Computer Operations 1969+, but
        the Sale Team was the bread and butter. Look at the growth of Rubber Maid, they too
        had a committed sales force. But of course we were selling the future.

      • Alan Harris says:

        It would be interesting to know how many companies, with a good idea, hired a lot of skills (especially sales) in 2008. And, how they are doing today. If they are doing better than those who shed skills in 2008, it’s a page out of IBM history. The more things change …………….

      • Bernie Levy says:

        Here’s my Poughkeepsie story. While working for Service Bureau Corp. on contract to IBM Systems Manufacturing Division, we had to attend a 4 or 5 day class to understand manufacturing, inventory control, and the like. One of the instructors wore a white lab coat and called himself “Bella the fella”. He held a chicken foot with which he picked his teeth.

  34. Jim Groseclose says:

    A lot of these things bring back memories for me. Guess I’m one of the old ones. I still wear my Rolex which i received in 1990.

  35. Penelope Gordon says:

    For us OS types, there’s ODM (object data manager).

  36. Alan Harris says:

    A lot of priceless references here. I have a PC Junior (complete with the “chicklet” and a couple of “pancakes.” I’d be happy to trade this incredible piece of technology for a copy of the “IBM Song”, a fedora, and a few lessons on how to wire the boards in a unit record device.

    • Peter Vander Sar says:

      I have a copy of a copy of copy (but legible) of the IBM Song book given to me by Jack Jette, my SE manager in 1970 and later my manager during the 1988 Winter Olympics project. Send me you mailing address and I’ll send you a copy

  37. Gil Long says:

    I have a complete set of THINK signs in various languages and colors.
    I also have a 3330 disk pack in my basement. Wish it were a 2311 disk pack.
    And my supervisor had to cut my tie when it go stuck in a card sorter.
    But my favorite job was taking carbon out of 6-part paper

  38. Perry Bowker says:

    Enjoyed this thread a lot. For more fun nostalgia, the IBM Jargon Dictionary put together by Mike Cowlishaw is a great read. BYTE8406 to all!

  39. Perry Bowker says:

    Speaking of portable computers, I had the use of one in the late 60s, for demonstrating QUIKTRAN and other service bureau offerings. It was in two cases, each about 2’x2’x1′ and totaling about 100 pounds. One of our CEs made it, by putting the guts of a 2741 and a telephone handset modem in one case, and the control circuitry in the other, plus a bunch of cables. Sold a few service contracts with it, so I guess it was worth the struggle to carry it around.

  40. Terry Wright says:

    Anyone know Jim Laverack (sp?). I was on assignment from Canada in Kingston, NY – 1963/64. Jim was an Aussie and took us out on the lawn at lunch to teach us how to throw a boomerang. They really do work!. Then I worked on the Irish Airlines project Aer Lingus – still in Kingston. We had a 1410/7010 completely built with RPQ’s on the HW. Then the salesman had to come back and tell us the customer didn’t sign the order. I think some heads rolled.

    • Peter Chomley says:

      Jim Laverack – now there is a name I remember from the “famous in the ’70s” days in IBM Australia Call/360.

    • Rod Thompson says:

      Terry, Peter,

      Please try contacting Jim at

      A few years ago there was an IBM Family Reunion organised in all states within Australia. I got Jim’s E-Mail address from the lists of employees who expressed some interest in attending.


  41. Paul Leduc says:

    You are an old IBMer if you still refer to service reps as CEs in Canada (or FEs in the US). IBM had to change this designation after the IEEE (or Society of Professional Engineers, I can’t remember which) forced IBM to drop the name, because these guys were not true ‘Engineers’.

    I started work in 1969 in Montreal, working as a CE for a whopping $440/month. Retired after 31 years.. Would have stayed longer but felt I was spending more time on reports justifying my job than doing actual productive work. How times have changed! I remember the early days when I loved my work so much I couldn’t wait to get the weekend out of the way so I could get back to work. In those days, we often trouble-shot bugs right down to the failing transistor or even SLT module on a card, used a solder-sucker to remove the defective component and solder in a new one. Those were the days of high job satisfaction!

    “Old CEs never die.. They just feed away, face down, nine edge first”

  42. Paul Leduc says:

    Speaking of ties, as CEs we were advised to always wear those clip-on ties.. Could save your life if it ever got caught in one of those electro-mechanical unit record machines. We were also advised not to wear any jewelry (watches, rings, etc.), as they could cause a short in any electrical or electronic machines. Another reason for no rings was that if a heavy piece of equipment fell on your hand, it would crush the ring, and it would stay crushed on your finger even after the object was removed.

    Fun times, and great memories!

  43. Perry Bowker says:

    Hey, Paul Leduc…. Great to see your name here..!

  44. Clark Jackson 547458 says:

    I waited years for my Rolex watch. Then when my quarter century came around (1984) they had discontinued it! I had to settle for a clock-barometer. (barometer still works but alas, the clock is pau.)

    • Dan Hicks says:

      I got a video camera that we used maybe twice.

      • Manny Gonzalez says:

        You just made me laugh. A friend went for the Ships Clock, but could never explain,
        8 bells to me. I decided instead of a watch, I had a good one, and went for the Webber BBQ,
        I thank Lou G, every time I use it. I would never have bought one for myself.

  45. Klaus Schulz says:

    I love all the comments … joined IBM in 1961 in Toronto MFG … & … retired with THE package in 2002 ! ….. still enjoying LIFE … even though the pension is NOT indexed !!!
    …….. over 20 years getting an IBM pension …. what a deal !
    …. still have pictures I took inside the plant (not authorized) of 401 etc machines and
    of a Gardner Denver wirewrap machine …. which I was operating for a few years !
    Even though I only had Technical school Electronics ….. I was able to work my way up
    into TEST ENGENEERING within the company !
    …… did not like the yearly personal evaluations & personal development sessions (what do you want to be when you grow up) ….. but got used to them during the 30 years ! ! !
    ….. pay for performance …. need to know …..etc ….. all good IBM lingos !
    …. later

  46. John says:

    Someone mentioned DASD earlier. That reminds me that storage management group allocated VM storage to users in 4 MB increments and required a formal request for each increase. I was amazed and delighted to get my first PC expansion module with 10 MB of storage I could just use without writing any justifications.
    Someone also mentioned the Gardner-Denver wire-wrap machines. I was the last of Boulder’s new hires assigned to run those machines. Unfortunately, for me, there was a odd number of machines, so I only had one. That didn’t seem like a big issue to me (at 19 years old), so I just did my job until my 90-day peformance review. I was shocked when I was put on notice for performance that was half as much as the other operators!
    A year ago, or so, I ran into one of the other ex-wire-wrap operators in a local restaurant. When he asked me what I was doing these days, I replied, “Still doing wire-wrap.”

    • Manny Gonzalez says:

      IBM Tools, In Poughkeepsie we had the Gardner-Denver wire-wrap machines. We also had the “Mapper” tool, used a laser to map the surface for chip placement on TCM’s. I was Series One
      support for all the tools in Poughkeepsie. IBM engineers certainly built some amazing test/build
      tools for the TCM Board line. I’m trying to remember some more of the tools names: Wire Bonder,

  47. Kevin McAUliffe says:

    A punch card is a 5081 .

  48. lhw0 says:

    PROFS was created for computer illiterate executives … menus wrapped around a lot of applications … many that they had borrowed (see PROFS entry in IBM Jargon)

    One of the borrowed apps was the email client, they found very early source version of internal “VMSG”. When the VMSG author offered them a significantly enhanced version, the PROFS group attempted to get him fired. It all quieted down when it was pointed out that every PROFS email carried the VMSG author’s initials in a non-displayed field. After that the VMSG author restricted source to just two other people.

    Executive branch email might carry every possible security classification. For the congressional subpoenas, who do you get to scan the backups & logs?

    • lhw0 says:

      oh, I was one of the two people that the VMSG author would trust to have copy of source.

      I have earlier IBM Jargon versions in flat text. San Jose Research had modified 6670 print driver to randomly select entries from a couple files for printing on the separator page … one of the files was early version of ibm jargon.

      One difference with earlier versions had “Tandem Memos” entry include line about 1981 datamation

      Tandem Memos – n. Something constructive but hard to control; a fresh of breath air (sic). That’s another Tandem Memos. A phrase to worry middle management. It refers to the computer-based conference (widely distributed in 1981) in which many technical personnel expressed dissatisfaction with the tools available to them at that time, and also constructively criticised the way products were are developed. The memos are required reading for anyone with a serious interest in quality products. If you have not seen the memos, try reading the November 1981 Datamation summary.

      … snip …

      I had been blamed for online computer conferencing on the internal network during the late 70s and early 80s. Folklore is that when the executive committee (ceo, cfo, pres, etc) was informed of online computer conferencing (and the internal network), 5of6 wanted to fire me.

  49. Sue says:

    Anyone remember IR’s?

    • Installation Requests?

      • Sue says:

        IR’s were the time sheets Customer engineers used to keep track of their time spent on service calls. Had to submit your IR’s once a week. Long before the ‘Brick’ .

      • Sue says:

        IR = Incident Report

      • Rod Thompson says:

        I recall the acronym as meaning ‘Installation Requests’ – a source document confirming the delivery and installation of a box with a customer. The IR would initiate the invoicing of the product to the customer (or in the case of a removal of the product, the IR would initiate a pro-rata credit for rental.) Some branch office guys (DPM – DP Movements) would coordinate the processing of IRs, organising equipment deliveries and removals, and the invoicing or crediting of rentals.

        But I’ve also worked in software development where ‘IR’ s (Incident Reports) were documented evidence of software bugs identified in the testing of programs.

      • To this day IBM use the term IRA to mean Installation Request Advice.
        The first time I got an IRA service call I got a little excited till I learnt it did not mean the Irish Republican Army was installing computer gear in Melbourne.
        To use in a sentence: A PO for an MES, will ship based on CRAD, leading to an IRA, which if not installed creates an SBU.

      • Rod Thompson says:

        Wonderful! I smile when I think I used those acronyms as part of my everyday work.

  50. Wow… that’s me in the suit and tie at the top of this article. How did you find this photo? This was an article about successful rookie salespeople that year. IBM was so confused about what to tell women to wear to conform to the dress code that I decided to mess with their heads and wear a suit and tie. What a flash from the past!

    • Wow! Amazing to hear from you.
      The photo is in the IBM Photo Archive right here:

      I thought it was a great shot that showed an IBM suit, but in a totally different way.
      Glad you liked it and thanks for the comment!

      • Bernie Levy says:

        The 35 photos at that link (“The Way We Wore”) was very interesting. Too bad the link “Click to enlarge” didn’t seem to work for me as the photos displayed are awfully tiny.

        I may have posted this, but as a programmer in the Service Bureau Corp. subsidiary of IBM in the 60s, the dress code was much more relaxed than in IBM. My suits, shirts, and ties were more patterned and/or colorful than just navy and white, and I started my beard then which I have had continuously until this day (long since retired from IBM).

      • Hi Bernie.
        Sadly the ability to enlarge those photos has been broken for some months #;-(
        I actually found Ellens photo on someone elses blog and re-hosted it here on WordPress to make sure it would always be available.
        Actually finding photos from older IBMers is hard as most of them obeyed rulings that we shouldn’t take pictures on IBM property #:-(

        Thanks for the comment!

      • When I started with IBM I used to get a “uniform allowance” which I presume was to encourage me to buy lots of suits.
        Australian tax law changed and they just folded it into our pay.

  51. Silvio Blaskovic says:

    My wife, who owned a beauty salon in Boca Raton for many years, as well as barber, shoemaker and other merchants in the Plaza said that they recognize IBM ers by the tip they give. They are the lousiest tippers of all, just plain cheap. I tell her that she is full of you know what and that I, IBM er, tip everyone 20% or more. Her answer is: “I agree and that is because I taught you so”. You can’t win, can you?

  52. Lynn T Gill says:

    I began my IBM career in Boca Raton FL, ESD in 1978 and was assigned to the System 23 development team. I absolutely loved IBM, the people, the culture; even the cafeteria. I still have my wing tips, gray pin stripped suit, white shirts and ties, I can not get into my suit anymore, it is a weight issue, nor can I bring myself to discard it. I still proudly display a THINK PAD on my desk and all the discussion concerning VM and Profs brought back many great memories; thanks for the trip.

  53. Mike Fox says:

    One that you missed. A group of slides (or foils if you prefer) is called a deck. “Send me the deck for the 3:00 meeting”

  54. Fred Martin says:

    I’ve carried aThink pad since first joining IBM in 1959. My first, and still favorite, was brown leather. The years brought many variations – black leather, smaller blue leather, and sadly the
    brown imitation leather (cardboard). The latter was in my mind an ill-advised attempt to save a few bucks, but it sent exactly the wrong message. Our reputation has always been top quality, not the cheapest alternative, and a chintzy fake leather logo item conveys just the opposite.

  55. Tom McSweeney says:

    Long before SameTime, the first instant messaging platform was the TELL program on VM. And I still think the REMINDER program had features that we’re still missing from Lotus calendar (it would remind you the day before something was due, instead of only on the due date).

  56. Fred Martin says:

    Hey, no activity lately – surely someone has something to say! Back to IR’s; Incident Reports were about the only thing about the CE job that I didn’t like. Working mostly in huge mainframe accounts we tended to hop back and forth between machines depending on what was hottest at the time, and deferred writting the IR’s till “later”. Then, at the week’s end, when we could avoid them no longer, we had pretty much forgotten all the minute details they called for. The worst part was they had to add up to exactly our full 40 hours plus any overtime. Also, there was pressure to not spend too much time on any one machine (going over) or too much on non-productive codes such as meetings, admin, etc. The result was a lot of creative fiction that bore little resemblence to what had actually occurred. The feedback we got from HQ was that everyone knew the data was unreliable and so it was ignored anyway; in other words a colossal waste of everyone’s time. That was nearly 40 years ago and I still have nightmares about filling out IR’s.

    • Dan Hicks says:

      Same way in the development labs — we did all sorts of reports to track errors and such, and most were fiction. Management never wanted the truth — if we did an honest schedule estimate they’d tell us to go back and redo it, then plan on slipping the schedule later.

    • As a field engineer I had to report 37.5 hours per week every week. 7.5 hours per day. The pressure to get this done in a timely fashion was constant.

      The moment engineers learnt that management was looking at % of hours reported as productive hours (SC 01, 08, 33 vs SC 50), the reporting of productive hours went up.
      The moment engineers learnt that management were looking at travel time, the reporting of travel time went down.
      The know of some support guys who learnt they were being measured on number of calls closed in a fixed time, they would just close customer calls and open new ones every few hours to ensure they met the max call open timer and looked busy by having lots of calls on their queue all the time.

      It was always a case of garbage in garbage out.

      • Dan Hicks says:

        It hasn’t changed. I now work for a small (but rapidly growing) company that prides itself on being “agile” (the current rage in programming methodology). But several of the (younger) developers were complaining yesterday that we’re doing paperwork for paperwork’s sake (though of course it’s now all online), and that the data management gets from it is meaningless, since it was all lies and wishful thinking.

        I just laughed and said “What did you expect?”

  57. Bill Hogan says:

    It’s amazing how long these strings can last on the internet. Someone (me) sees the site for the first time and it’s all new. Anyway, here’s my story. I was a CE supporting printing products at a show in Germany and showed up on the first day at the entrance. They had our credentials at the booth so I had call and have them brought out. I talked to a “booth babe” and ask her to bring them to the entrance. She asked me what I looked like so she could pick me out in the crowd and I told her I had gray hair and was wearing a white shirt with a blue suit. She said, “yeah sure, you’ll be easy to spot in a crowd of IBMers”.

  58. Kevin Mount says:

    I wonder if any of your readers might know who was the author of this short-lived blog … and if he/she can be contacted

  59. Gabriel says:

    I love the blog. My father is a retired IBMer who started with them in 1955. The most notable things I remember about IBM back in those days was the Country Club and IBM Day, and of course, when he received his Rolex watch for becoming a Quarter Century Club member.

  60. Pete Alban says:

    I remember being an SE in New Haven. Conn and when you went in the mens room there was a mirror with the outline of a man in a suit and wingtips and words written on the mirror for you to check your own outfit to make sure you were professionally presentable to clients ! 30 yrs later just before I retired as head of IBM Travel & Transportation Consulting Group, they had introduced something called “casual fridays” and my organization thought of me as the old guy because I still wore my suit and tie every friday. My how things changed, and to my way of thinking ruined what was once the most looked up to company in the world. Pete Alban, Sr. Exec retired ….

    • Gabriel Isernia says:

      I agree with you Pete, I feel that what set IBM apart from the other organizations back in the early days was the way they incorporated the families of the employees into their values. I was never an IBM employee, but grew up as an IBM child. As I mentioned in another post, my Dad started with IBM back in 1955, retired (I believe) in 1989 and continued in one form or another for at least another 15 or so years. He always wore a suit and tie and frowned on the days when it began to change. I grew up in the Poughkeepsie, NY area and remember the days of going to the Country Clubs in Poughkeepsie, Kingston, and Fishkill, basically spending my summers enjoying being a child. Not to mention IBM Day. But as you mentioned, things have changed, not just with IBM, but how family values are quite different now.

    • Gabriel Isernia says:

      I think I am going to have to share this blog with my father, he would get a kick out of the IBM talk. He turns 89 this year, and to this day, still keeps up with the same routine of working around the house and going to the gym every day.

  61. Pete Alban says:

    IR’s are Incident Reports filled out by CE’s and PSR’s of which I was both for a year or two until I graduated to SE. Code 10 was an urgent trouble call … of which the old 2560’s had many. Those were fun days, suit and tie and briefcase with a grease-gun for the 1403’s ! I could still IPL any 360 by spinning the dials and hitting “sys reset” and “start”. But how old is that lingo !!

  62. gary pinka says:

    Believe it or not i still work on the 3890’s. When i started i 1988 i was at a site that had 16 3890’s. Most were “B” models then came along the XP’s. They were fully blown 6 stackers and averaged 1.5 to 2 millon checks per machine daily Then image came along after 911 and that was the start of the end of the 3890’s. I still service 2 of them today with only 2 stackers and they average around 15-20k daily. A far cry from their hay-day.

  63. Jon Mark says:

    Regarding the discussion of Wingtip Shoes, the old IBM Joke was: What’s the difference between Wingtip Shoes and Cowboy Boots? Cowboy Boots have to Bull Sh*t on the outside.

    Can any of you still remember the key sequence for IPL’s a Series/1 from the Programmers Console to a printer? stop, stop on address 1950, store, load, R0 0164, store, stop on address, start.
    What is the best tool for fixing card feed failures – Pencil Eraser
    How do you count the pins on a Board. dow jones points up buy general motors stock. and what was D08 always.

    Oh and what is the IBM alphabet. A B C D E F G H J K L M N P Q R S T U V

    Funny we had a large insurance company whose agent reps had to carry around a PLD. This was a Portable Load Device which consisted of a Floppy Drive. They renamed the device a PMA, for Portable My *SS

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