IBM Flowcharting Template

When I was a kid. An honest to goodness retired IBM engineer and his wife moved in across the street from me. He and his wife were very nice to me, giving me toys on my birthday and overpaying me to wash their car in the summer. The engineer, Fred, would sit in a chair in the yard and tell me stories about computers and other technologies.

One late summer day while drying their Cadillac, Fred told me they were moving to Florida. It was a sad day. I helped them pack boxes and throw stuff out for the next month. The day before they left Fred gave me a box full of things he thought I should have. Amongst them was a pocket knife (which I still have on my desk), a slide rule and this IBM flowcharting template.

I never heard from them again until I was much older and I got a letter from his wife. Fred had died. I think he would be happy to know that I eventually chose a career in computers and that his stories had something to do with my choice.

Its kind of a cool looking package, so I thought I would share.

Over the years, this post has gotten a lot of feedback and people have asked me for more photos of the template as well as some of the other items that Fred gave me. I dug them out and snapped a few photos. You will see the template, a 1944 quarter, a cool lighter and a pocket knife. I think I still have a few other items, if I find them, I will photograph them as well and add them here.

As you can see, I used this thing for years and did a little drawing on the back. Makes me a little sad, but not too much.

This Post Has 44 Comments

  1. Hey Retroist, this post shows up in my RSS feed, but not on the front page of the website.

    That being said, that thing is NEAT. I have no idea what it is though. Something to do with old punch card computers?

  2. Nevermind, it is here now!

  3. Touching story.

    Nice piece of computer history, though I have no clue what it is. =P

  4. I don’t think I meant this to be touching when I started writing it. Next time I will label it though.

    “On a very special The Retroist. The Retroist learns a lesson about life, death and computers”.”

  5. Maybe … the best story you will ever write. Retrotouching.

  6. That’s a great story. Any idea what kind of pocketknife he gave you?

  7. The first thing I thought was, “I had a template like that! Not IBM, but a flowcharting template nonetheless!” Then I read the story and was touched by it as well as nostalgic. Well done.

  8. Thanks for the kind word about it being touching. The pocketknife is more of a pen knife. When I get the scanner up and working again this weekend I will make a scan.

  9. I am terribly jealous of your flowcharting template! I remember my dad had one of those, and I loved using it to draw pictures when he would take me to work with him on Saturdays. Now we just use Visio!

    Thanks for the sweet story of your kind neighbors, too. I’m sure they enjoyed having you around as much as you enjoyed hearing their stories.

  10. Yes – I had one of these and used it from 1967 onwards. I also still have an OLDER one which I used between 1963 and 1967.

  11. For those of you who are not familiar with Flowcharting Techniques, but would like to learn more, you may be interested in the Flowcharting Techniques manual from IBM:

    This is an updated edition from 1969, I believe the original C20-8152 manual was printed in 1964. If you can link to the PDF you’ll see that the manual includes information on how to use the Flowchart Template that the Retroist has brought to our attention.

    And if you like this stuff, you may be interested in the following site:

  12. Wow metagirl. Thank-you. I had never fully explored the origins of the flowchart along with the other pics. I love that their is still an updated version of the C20-8152 manual.

  13. I’m amazed that some folks didn’t know what this was. I had one of them which I used in classes as recently as the early 90’s. In COBOL I and COBOL II classes we were required to create a flowchart, by hand using the template since computer based flow chart tools didn’t yet exist, for every program assignment before we wrote a single line of code.

  14. I had one of these templates (no handed down to me, so no sentimental value) and used it regularly in my job at DEC probably through 1989. Then I started drawing flow charts on my Mac and the template went in the trash. Now I use Visio for the same thing. The tool may change but the method is still important for some projects.

  15. I don’t really like Visio so maybe I should give your template a try.

  16. I have 3 of these, and they’re part of my history too. I retired from Microsoft a year back, from a lifelong career in Computer Software.

    This is a touching story!

  17. Not only do I have and use one of these, I laso have the HIPO variaety. Hands up anyone who can say what that means without looking it up!

  18. It’s funny but such templates do not originate from software development – I used to have one originated from 193x, my grandfather (chemist-engineer) have used it in his work. It was not blue but rose and manufactured in Soviet Union.

  19. I also have a “forms ruler”. You know, it had the 132 printer column positions across the top. Real steel, too. ***sigh****

  20. This kind of writing is truly what sets this site apart – that impact and personal importance of the culture on our lives. Great stuff.

  21. That IBM template is used in conjunction with a programmable computer chip, called an e-prompt. You flowchart, (tell the computer what to do), your programming…

  22. I started programming in the early 90’s. COBOL on S/390 and then onto newer languages. Through it all, I’ve a little collection of 3 of these very Flowchart Templates. But by the time i got to them, they came wrapped in plastic. Even though I now use Visio for flowcharting and system documentation, I still keep the little green templates in my notebooks for off the cuff flows… and heck, they just look cool…so old-school..reminding me of the the time when thinking about the hardware and how things actually work was important..and how it kind of still is. 🙂

    I’ll be probably be using these templates in one way or another for the rest of my career.

    Love the site, and thanks for the touching story.

  23. My first use for the template was in 1962 at the GM Stock Transfer Offices in New York City and I still have it and I actually still use it, occasionaly,
    I teach Computer Programming at a local Community College and my class this semester have no idea what it is for, but then again they haven’t even seen an iPad.

    Now where can I buy 10 of these for under $2 ????


  24. I think Fred is looking down with fondness. He is immortalized in your thoughts and now this post.

  25. I have been very surprised at the popularity of this post and I am very glad people seem to like it. Fred had more of an influence on me then I think he would ever realize.

  26. I’ve misplaced mine (had it since …..well, a long, long time) and of course now I need it because I’m back in school, trying to prove that one can teach old dogs new tricks :-).

    Does anyone know where I can buy one?

  27. What d’ya mean? I still use this all the time! (For what, I won’t tell!) and also my forms ruler with the 132 cc across the top!

    Test time: What’s a Yellow Card?

  28. It’s sad that many ‘programmers’ today don’t even know what this is.
    All this OOP nonsense has ruined programming.

    I wish I still had mine. I found this link because I was searching for one to buy.

    Even if you are not a programmer, these are great for laying out processes and procedures.

    Thanks for the great post.


  29. I’m taking my very first programming class, and of course it starts with ‘planning the logic’ using flowcharting. I searched the office supply stores for a template to make up for my decidedly non-artistic drawings but couldn’t find one. This is it! I wonder if anyone still makes them. Thanks for the great post!

  30. David — I have heard from people who found them online to buy. Good luck in your class.

  31. If I search my attic I’m sure I’ll find the same template. It was used for System design flowcharting.
    I am an ex-IBM’er and used the template mostly for presentations. They also had pads of flowchart paper that you used in conjunction with the template.

    it’s a good memory

  32. I worked for IBM for 22 years, and used the template for Customer presentations and internal systems planning. IBM had a large version of the template that could be used with flip charts (another tool from bygone days).

    I still have much memoribilia from those days in the 70’s and 80’s at IBM – I treasure the memories it invokes.

  33. Dave, what great memories you must have. Do you have any photos of some of your memorabilia?

  34. I have an X20-8020 in my top drawer. Haven’t used it for flowcharting for years, but it just another piece of history to weird out the young’uns. I also have a telegram in the top drawer.
    Keep the past alive!

  35. Glad I stumbled across this thread. I still have mine. Retired from IBM after 30 years but that was a while back. Just couldn’t seem to discard things from one of the greatest companies the world has ever known!

  36. Ray, glad to have you drop by and glad you also hold onto these things. It is often smallest things (like a sleeve) that can trigger the most positive memories.

  37. I do have a few different templates.

    1 ISO 3098 lettering template
    1 electronic design and control systems drawing template
    1 lettering template (bigger face)
    1 system processing template

    I went to school as a electronic engineer (like going to college) here in sweden and later continued in computer science at university.

    I’m old enough so that i had to learn how to draw mechanical design drawings by hand.

  38. I own one of these!!

  39. I have one of these as well, which I still use. I used one for the first time back in the mid-80s. They are great.

  40. I have one of these exact same templates, and I remember using them back in the day, along with square printed paper (who remembers that!)
    Great post!

  41. I had on of those as well, don’t know where it is at the moment, but I do remember that the later ones came in a plastic wrap and needed careful opening to retain the guide.

    I also remember the square paper Robb.

Leave a Reply

Close Menu
%d bloggers like this: