View Full Version : IBM System/34

September 5th, 2017, 03:52 PM
Forgive me if this is not in the correct section.

I recently acquired an IBM System/34 5340 that was used as an accounting machine at a now closed manufacturing facility. The previous owner, a very senior gentleman, seems to recall paying $35k for it around 40 years ago. I have not had time to power it on yet (I have two jobs, very little time), but I would like to get it running again, and then sell it when the satisfaction of playing around with it wears off, as I am more of a Mac guy than older business machines. My question is, who would have a need for something like this, and what could it be used for in this day and age? I'm not sure if this would fall into a hobby computer, as it is so large, but please correct me if I'm wrong. Here's what I got:

-The actual System 34/5340 Unit/Computer, which has one hard drive
-The printer ( I cant recall the model number, it is very large and was sold with the system)
-Three IBM terminals (I believe 5251) and keyboards
-The 8" floppy discs to run it and a manual
-Some cabling and wires

I see that the terminals and keyboards go for a good amount on eBay, but I would hate to break up the system. I would like to keep it but it takes up a lot of room and I fear my wife may eventually kill me for bringing this home. Anyway, I'd like to know if anyone would happen to know the value of the whole system and whether or not it has a use outside of a parts machine (assuming it works!) Thank you

Sorry for the double post, Im not sure how to delete it

September 8th, 2017, 04:52 AM
What you have is worth a lot to an IBM collector, try not to break it up although it would be tempting to just sell the terminals for big bucks. The IBM 32/34 and 36 family of products came out in the late seventies and were done by the mid-eighties and represent life right before the desktop PC revolution and the wide spread adaption of the Intel processors. Back at a time when those systems were built time share was king and no one had a processor on their desk. Lot like the day of the PDP-8, 11 and later VAX networks.
I am not an IBM person but think that system runs something like IBM SSP and would support higher languages like Basic, FORTRAN and APL and if you have the physical space and electrical service would be fun to set up and operate. If not I am certain any number of collectors here would be willing to pay a fair amount for the system or you can list it as a complete system on EBay with transportation being the responsibility of the buyer and make a lot from it that way but please try selling it as a complete system.
Where are you located?

September 8th, 2017, 11:02 AM
Firstly I haven't seen the terminals actually sell for mega bucks. There is one listed but it hasn't sold. Later screens fetch $100-$200 ...

If they have IBM bucking key keyboards, then the keyboards can fetch high values by gamers who gut them for the keys . e.g.


as for the value of the system, well I have no idea, but certainly not mega bucks. There are many sorts of IBM collector, and I don't know any that specialize in the early mid-range kit like the System/3, System/34, System/36 etc. A more modern AS/400 has much better connectivity, runs similar software, and will fit under a table. Its a real odd-ball, closed system. I suspect you only have RPGII. I have a feeling that it was included with the system whilst Cobol, Fortran and Basic were extras.. In the long run its worth what you can get.

September 8th, 2017, 11:21 AM
The System/32, System/34, and System/36 were small work-horse type systems for businesses in the late 70s and early 1980s. All of these machines were designed and produced in Rochester, MN at the IBM plant there. Later machines included the System/38, which turned into the AS/400 and was rebranded as the iSeries.

It's a historically significant system. It would be suitable for a very serious hobbyist or a museum.

September 8th, 2017, 11:30 AM
Yea, well I am not an IBM collector. I do have my IBM 5150 and a couple other 286 systems squirreled away but looks like I may be way off on the value. Somehow just tend to think of a lot of the seventies stuff has gotten somewhat expensive these days, epically things like any of the DEC hardware. If it were somewhere around me would be tempted to throw some money at it but transportation is always the issue isn’t it.
Funny thing is back in the nineties you would pay to have something like that hauled off or of all the hardware from back then that was basically striped for metal recovery or useful components.
Think where you can be today if you had a time machine!

September 9th, 2017, 02:02 AM
Might get more help on the CCTALK list. Many on there don't come on here..


There are some manuals here


I would think getting it working would be interesting, but hard work. Corestore had one


as for the value of DEC well its open hardware. Lost of help when you mess up. Plenty of spares. software licences available from HP for VMS, emulators in simh so you can learn the os easily..

oh and if the disks were not locked for transport its probably un-recoverable...

(PS where are you, some one might volunteer to help)

September 9th, 2017, 03:16 AM
The OP appears to be located in Yuma, AZ.

That's almost 1000 miles from me - doable, but a bit close to the death-march sense of doable.

September 9th, 2017, 08:29 PM
The drive was not locked down when I brought it home. It probably didn't help that they used a forklift to move around the warehouse for some time. I will keep yall posted when I get around to plugging it in

September 11th, 2017, 09:04 AM
I hope you find that the disk drive was not damaged. That would be tragic!

The Living Computers + Labs in Seattle may be interested in acquiring it, especially if it is in somewhat working condition: http://www.livingcomputers.org/

The museum, founded by Paul Allen, is growing exponentially and is focused on providing a true hands-on experience for their visitors.

Here is their donation page: http://www.livingcomputers.org/Join/Contribute-Historical-Artifacts.aspx

I am a member of this organization and have recently donated items to them. Having toured the floor where they store inactive hardware I can tell that they prioritize systems on three factors - historical significance, the effort required to restore a system to operability, and overall cost of acquisition. High significance, low effort and/or reasonable cost will most certainly get a system on their radar.

I was a programmer for several System/34s in the 1980s, using RPGII. The O/S was very straight-forward and easy to administer and use, and the hardware was very reliable, but I found that RPGII was NOT a good programming language for an online environment - the backflips you had to to go through in your code could be quite nightmarish. RPGII just was not designed for that, despite the extensions IBM added just for this purpose.

March 4th, 2020, 09:53 AM
I worked on these machines back in the ‘80s. I’m an avid IBM collector and I have an AS/400 in my basement. The S3 - S/34 were commonly sold as replacements in unit-record accounting environments and used primarily for book keeping. Most software from that time period was written in RPGII but these are fully functioning general purpose computers that can be used for any application that is feasible in a blockmode-terminal environment. Other programming languages are available but they were very expensive and greatly increased the storage capacity requirements. RPG was designed for accounting purposes and you won’t find much in the way of traditional fun to be had.

I would say that the machine you have would only be of interest to a hardcore collector. Given that the shipping fees are so high, you would likely get very little for it so you might as well keep it, have some fun learning RPGII. BTW, my AS/400 cost $700 to ship from Arizona to Washington state and there weren’t any printers or terminals involved.


March 4th, 2020, 11:18 AM
Oh neat, another BC person who knows IBM's midrange. :)

The thread's pretty old now but I can also agree that a /34 is certainly a machine for serious collectors due to its enormous size. A complete system however becomes far more attractive to said collectors however due to them only needing to rant one Uhaul for the weekend and get all the parts at once.