Francis Underwood

Francis Underwood's career at IBM spanned 30 years of design engineering, including chief architect of the IBM 1401 Data Processing System, co-designer of the IBM 1800 Data Acquisition and Control System, and co-inventor of the forerunner to the floppy disk. He began his IBM career in 1948 at the Endicott NY lab as a customer engineer, where his training included hands-on assembly of punched card accounting machines. He was promoted to a design engineer, teaching switching and logic design classes. In 1956, he joined Endicott's Advanced Systems Development Department (ASDD) and in 1957 was asked to jump-start IBM's transistorized accounting machine development. In early 1958, based on his Stored-Program Accounting and Calculating Equipment (SPACE) design, he became chief architect of the IBM 1401, announced in October 1959 and one of IBM's most successful and early transistorized products. He transferred to the San Jose lab in 1961 to co-develop the IBM 1800 process control computer and then, in the Instructional Systems Development Department (ISDD), an audio/visual instructional terminal with a forerunner to the floppy disk. In 1972, after two years out of IBM at a startup firm, he transferred to Rochester MN to coordinate engineering development of the IBM 3800 Laser Printer. Francis retired from IBM in 1980 to start an engineering consulting firm designing tools and machines for small manufacturing businesses and metal recovery plants. In 1988 he joined an international firm designing ski lifts for 15 years. Fran was an avid Stearman aerobatic biplane pilot, a watercolor artist and holds six US IBM patents.


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