Artifact Details


Portable input unit

Catalog Number



Physical object


Circa 1971


International Business Machines (IBM))

Identifying Numbers

Other number FR1380 Asset no. on a property of IBM label on the back of the object.


overall: 1 3/4 in x 6 in x 4 3/4 in

Curator Notes

This IBM device was designed as a dictation machine to expedite transcription work that secretaries received from their bosses. Audio was stored on proprietary 3-inch IBM “Magnabelts” -- Mylar strips coated with ferromagnetic material -- that could be erased and reused. The Portable Input Unit also permitted indexing, where special instructions could be left for the transcriptionist and through which end-of-letter notifications could be placed. Other features included end-of-belt alerts and warning signals, audible scanning in 6-second increments (equating to approximately 10 words), variable recording and playback volume control, an optional auxiliary microphone, and an option to select either 10 or 20 minute recording times. Special equipment was required for secretaries performing the transcription work, including a foot pedal that turned on audio playback when depressed and stopped it when released. IBM manufactured Executary machines until 1972.


Gift of Clyde Lee

Lot Number