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IBM 1964 [The Cook Book] By Russ Theisen Life Senior member IEEE

In 1964 I was working for IBM Computer Corporation in Endicott, New York. One of the jobs assigned to me was to help the commercial test equipment repair department to repair the commercial tools the computer manufacturer used.

I had experience in electronics repair, since I had worked in a Radio and Television Repair shop and Military Electronics previously.

I noticed a large number of electronic test equipments and power supplies sitting on the repair shelves that were waiting for parts. Usually these were waiting for transistors or diodes.

I asked why some of the pieces were waiting for parts for several months. My manager told me that they could not get a replacement parts for them.

I asked my manager, where is your substitution list for transistors and diodes?

The reply was what are you talking about? We do not have one of those.

I said in the radio and TV business, we had a substitution list for electronic tubes, diodes and transistors.

I was told that they had never heard of that.

I told my manager that it was not to hard to make one. If I had a curve tracer similar to Tektronix model 725 and some time, I could make one for you.

My manager said “go at it if you think that you can help get this back log out”.

I made a trip to near by Binghamton, NY to find a Television Repair Distributor. I purchased a few substitution books and bought a semiconductor characteristic book and a gird note book.

I laid out the cook book with characteristics of commercial transistors and left open columns for IBM parts equivalents.

Using the transistor curve tracer, I took every part that was in the parts department stock room and began to determine its characteristics. If I found one with similar characteristics for mounting type, gain, current, voltage etc. I put it in the book next the similar commercial part.

Soon, I had a book of about 100 pages that contained all the IBM parts vs similar commercial parts.

Using this book it was simple to find an equivalent part for the special IBM part that was not available.

I repaired some 35+ IBM electronic equipments and commercial test equipments that had been sitting on the repair shelf for several months. I doubled the repairs that the entire repair department was producing that week.

When I showed the department manager what I had done, he said that was great, but we cannot let that substitution manual get out of this department.

I tried to tell him if your Customer Engineers could get this information they could go down the street and buy a replacement from the commercial distributor and get the IBM Customer back in operation. This would make IBM a hero to the customer. He told me the company makes its money on expensive IBM parts and if we can replace these expensive parts with cheap commercial equivalents then it would reduce the prestige of IBM in the minds of the customers. Well I guess this was the IBM Cultural thing.

I kept that substitution cook book on the wall of the supply parts crib for the duration of my two year stay at IBM.