What was the Church's first computer system and what was it used for?
According to Gary Carlson, a pioneer in the computer technology field for the Church, the first computer purchased and used by the Church was an IBM 1401 system. It was purchased around 1962 and was used exclusively for accounting applications.
Originally announced by IBM in 1959, the 1401 was the first mass-produced, digital, all-transistorized, affordable business computer. When it was originally announced, customers could lease the 1401 for around $2,500 per month. The 1401 was sometimes referred to as the "Model T" of business computers. It was the first computer to sell more than 10,000 units. The machine stood about 5 feet tall and was about 3 feet wide. It came with 4,096 characters of memory.
Initially the Church used the new computer exclusively for accounting. Interestingly, when Carlson and other members who were active in the computer field presented the idea of the Church acquiring a computer, they wrote a demo genealogical program on a similar computer at a computer lab to show off the capabilities of what a computer could do. However, because the common feeling at the time was that computers were very fast calculators and adding machines, accounting was the application that the Church started using. It did not take long for the Church to extend its use of the computer into financial, membership, and genealogy applications.
You can read more about the IBM 1401 on Wikipedia or view images of what an IBM 1401 looks like on Google Images.