Alternate History

IBM 360 (Caroline Era)

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Example of an IBM 360 control panel at NASA in the 1960s.

The IBM 360 was an influentially-designed IBM mainframe some of whose features were adopted as de facto industry standards. These included the six-bit byte, the eighteen-bit word length, It also marked the final abandonment of a number of ideas which had previously been popular in computer design, including memory segmentation, pipelining, instruction caching and prefetch, all of which turned out to be impossible to implement without actually slowing down the processor due to the total gate propagation delay resulting from the complexity of the digital circuitry required. Another standard which was adopted was seven-track magnetic tape, which was later adapted to magnetic media for carrying audio as well as data in domestic computers.

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