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Athearn’s 1972 Computerization

No doubt arranged for this publicity picture, here’s Athearn’s IBM System/3 Model 6 computer ready for work in 1972 surrounded by examples from the company’s HO-scale model train line. The Alco PA-1 models present in the foreground were new releases at the time.

Athearn’s 1972 Computerization

By Tony Cook

International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) introduced its System/3 computer in 1969. Sold into the mid-1980s, this product came from a Minnesota-based facility, IBM Rochester, and served in the company’s line as a mid-range offering for use by smaller organizations for record keeping service. IBM’s System/3 introduced the RPG II computer language. Though it may look gargantuan, IBM’s System/3 was considered a “minicomputer” for its era. Athearn’s System/3 Model 6 saw introduction by IBM in 1970 and brought with it a disk-based storage system, versus punch cards of the original Model 10 from 1969.

RMC June 1972

Included in June 1972 coverage in Railroad Model Craftsman is a new item, “The Computer Did it.” The story reports on Athearn’s purchase of an IBM System/3 Model 6 computer for use in determining production. The new item states Athearn then sold a half million locomotives and cars and this IBM was being tasked with helping to provide data to help the manufacturer decided which of the 800 models should be put into production on any given day.

IBM System 3/Model 6

This IBM brochure cover shows its System/3 Model 6. The System/3 line saw introduction in 1969 and sold through 1985. The Model 6, pictured on the brochure cover, was the first with disk storage and the entire system was considered a minicomputer for its era.

RMC’s new item stated, “(t)he installation allows two people to handle all office work associated with Athearn’s $1 million annual sales volume. And it’s always nice to have a computer to blame for those nagging little problems that fail to crop up.”

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This article was posted on: October 18, 2019