Robert Garner’s career in Silicon Valley spans 36 years of management and engineering beginning in 1977 at Xerox (STAR workstation, PARC VLSI), Sun Microsystems (SPARC, Sun-4), Brocade Communications (Fibre Channel switches), and IBM Research (IceCube, GPFS). In 2003, he volunteered at the Computer History Museum to lead the restoration of a 50-year-old IBM 1401. He recruited and organized a team of retired IBM customer, manufacturing, and software engineers and colleagues, who after five years restored two IBM 1401 tape-oriented systems and vintage punched-card equipment to full functionality. In the fall of 2009, he organized the “50th Anniversary of the Legendary IBM 1401” event and in 2013, the 1401 Demo Lab was remodeled and opened up to the general public.
Is anyone willing to lead a project to restore an IBM 1401?” Mike Cheponis enthusiastically asked with a glint in his eye. I knew Mike after attending several of his DEC PDP-1 restoration sessions at the Computer History Museum. While most of my late night college hours were spent on DEC, UNIVAC, and SDS computers, I had little exposure to IBM in the day. After designing central processors and leading-edge workstations at Xerox (1979) and Sun (1984), with a new position at IBM Research and a curiosity about the history of early computers, I naively accepted the challenge. A few moments later, I asked: “What exactly is an IBM 1401?Read More