Did You Know About the IBM Gift Advisor?

Every December I have the same problem – I can never seem to figure out what to get my wife for the holidays. Rare is the year that she doesn’t end up returning most if not all of what I buy her. What I really need is the remarkable IBM Christmas Gift Advisor.

The IBM 1401 was introduced in 1959, and was the most popular computer of the 1960s.

The IBM 1401 was introduced in 1959, and was the most popular computer of the 1960s.

Fifty years ago, holiday shoppers in the Wolf & Dessauer department store in Fort Wayne, Indiana, had an IBM 1401 help them with gift ideas for their problem giftees. The desperate shoppers filled out multiple choice forms that described the person they were shopping for. The data was then punched into IBM cards at the Gift Advisor computer center on the third floor of the store, read into a specially programmed 1401 at the rate of 800 cards a minute, and presto! In lessĀ  time than it took to check the price tag on a potential gift for Uncle Russell, the gift-challenged shopper was, um, ‘present’ed with a printed shopping list of 10 gift ideas, courtesy of IBM’s 600-lines-a-minute 1403 printer. The list included price ranges, and the grateful shopper could then consult floor guides to find out the location of where these products were located. IBM – taking stress out of the holidays since 1962.

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The December 2012 theme for The Greater IBM Connection is ‘corporate history’, and Paul Lasewicz, IBM Corporate Archivist, will be sharing with us some of the highlights from IBM’s history.

Paul Lasewicz, IBM Corporate Archivist

Paul Lasewicz, IBM Corporate Archivist