IBM System/32

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The IBM System/32 (IBM 5320) introduced in January 1975[1] was a low-end business computer. It was used primarily by small to midsize businesses for accounting applications. RPGII was the (main) programming language for the machine. It was the successor to the IBM System/3 model 6 in the IBM midrange computer line.

Form factor

The computer looked like a large office desk with a very small six-line by forty-character display. The machine had a built-in printer that directly faced the operator when seated. When keying the operator would be viewing the character display which was also common to the then current IBM 3740 family of data entry to floppy disk media. It had 16 kB or 32 kB of memory, a single hard drive that was available in 5 MB, 9 MB, or 13 MB sizes, and an eight-inch floppy drive, this drive could also read floppies from the IBM 3740 family. SEU (Source Entry Utility, the programming editor), DFU (Data File Utility, a query and report generator), OCL (Operations Control Language, the command-line language), and #LIBRARY (the directory in which executable code was stored) are some terms associated with the System/32. Migration to the IBM System/34 was generally simple as the source was programs just needed recompliation.

Having the appearance of a computerized desk, the System/32 was nicknamed the "Bionic Desk" after The Six Million Dollar Man, a popular TV program when the computer was introduced in 1975.


The System/32 was advertised in several major magazines, including Newsweek. The ads were quite text-heavy and had a picture of a man and a woman in business attire looking at reports on top of the computer. A small clip-out response "card" was printed next to the picture. The following is the text of one advertisement run in Newsweek during the fall of 1975:

Computers too complicated?

IBM's System/32 might change your mind.
It's only about the size of a desk so it's small enough to fit in almost anywhere. And it's not expensive. At least not in the kind of terms you're probably used to associating with computer costs.
Above all, System/32 is simple to operate. In fact, it can be run by someone in your company with very little training.
Yet despite its small size, low cost and easy operation, System/32 is a sophisticated computer that can provide you with many of the same benefits big companies get from their big computers.
For instance, System/32 can provide fast, accurate handling of all your accounting needs, improve your inventory control and generate the kind of key reports that can make a major contribution to the management of your business. Without unnecessary complications.
Since January, when IBM introduced System/32, thousands of companies have ordered this remarkable, easy-to-use computer.
If you still think computers are too complicated for your business, maybe you should find out more about System/32.

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