IBM’s first major contribution in the mainframe computing realm was the IBM 701. The 701 was introduced to the public in 1952 and although IBM only ever produced 19 of them the 701 still remained the standard for what was to come. In comparison with today’s mainframes the 701 was very expensive to run and maintain. Customers only had the option to lease a 701 mainframe and, it would cost them over $16,000 a month which would be well over $100,000 a month today. In terms of compute power a newer z10 mainframe from IBM would have well over a million times the compute power then 701 did and cost just a fraction of the price to lease monthly.
IBM’s second major contribution to mainframe computing was the 650 Magnetic Drum Processing Machine. The 650 was the money-making machine behind the IBM logo, so while the 701 was taking all the glory IBM was making all its revenue off the much more affordable 650. In the late 1950s IBM produced over 2,000 650s and leased them to customers for around $3,000 a month. That is well over $25,000 a month today. Still, in today’s terms a newer z10 mainframe would be much cheaper and still provide millions of times more compute power.
Just looking at these numbers it is easy to see how mainframe computing or just computing in general has changed over the last 60 years, getting smaller, cheaper, and faster. A z10 today would run the average consumer around $20,000 a month to lease, take up less space, use less power, and compute million times more information than the makers of the first generation mainframe would have ever dreamed of. Taking that a step further, your smartphone in your pocket has more computing power than all 19 701 IBM mainframes produced in the 1950s.