IBM 557 Alphabetic Interpreter??

From: Lawrence Walker <>
Date: Tue Mar 30 06:47:49 1999

On 29 Mar 99 at 21:48, Sellam Ismail wrote:

> On Mon, 29 Mar 1999, James Willing wrote:
> > At 08:37 PM 3/29/99 -0800, Sellam wrote:
> > >
> > >Does anyone know what the function of an IBM 557 Alphabetic Interpreter
> > >is/was?
> >
> > ... and yes, if you had not guessed... I still have a manual on how to
> > program these things!
> Cool. I especially liked the patch panel. I'd love to learn how to
> program the thing.
> > (now, if I could just remember that trick that we used to teach a 402
> > tabulator how to multiply... B^} )
> Are you implying these things had some general purpose computing
> attributes?
> Sellam Alternate e-mail:
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Don't rub the lamp if you don't want the genie to come out.
 It's been a long time, but IIRC these were relatively simple to wire
the plug -board. The info for the top line was based on the top 3 holes
on the cards representing alpha-groups A-I , J-R, and S-Z respectively
eg: a column with a 0 and a 9 would be an "A", a 2 and 5 a "W" etc.
 This was also how the sorters were used to sort alphabetically. First
we'd sort into the 3 groups and then by letter. you became quite proficient
at it - buff the cards, slap them into the feeder, sort 0to2, pull them , buff
them, sort by letter, and they would magically come up in order.
 What you could do now in the length of time it took to set the column sort
 I always have problems diferentiating between the definitions used in
reference to computing. These were used for processing data, just like the
newest Pentiums. A calculator basically counts the tics. 2x4 is 4 counted
twice. That is what math processors do unless they have tables like the above
alphabetical groups to act on.Simply a more sophisticated version.
 I used a machine called a statistical sorter which kept track of the holes
punched to indicate a medical disorder, region , industry etc. for that
particular card and based on the numerical data issued a report for the Prov
of Ont. that year. Other than it being easier and faster, I don't see such a
big difference in modern applications These were not typewriters or calculators
but sophisticated business tools in their own right. The card punch,
interpreter, sorter, collator, tape-drives ,etc. have their present day
eqiuivalents in keyboards, files, disk drives , merge programs, printers ,etc.
ciao larry
Received on Tue Mar 30 1999 - 06:47:49 BST

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