I have in my library a copy of "Mark IV systems : Application Development Systems : Pocket Specifications Manual" by Informatics Inc. I can find very little about this, only a generalised description.

There's a small amount about it on Wikipedia and that has a link to some advertising. There is a history of it but it's behind a paywall ($33, which is a bit steep to satisfy simply curiosity).

It appears to have eventually been absorbed into Computer Associates' portfolio as Vision:Builder, but there is no reference to it at the CA/Broadcom site.

The last references that I can find from an internet search seem to be around 2010 in various Q&A fora. In its day Mark IV seems to have been a significant early 4GL which ran on IBM 360 and 370 systems as well as RCA Spectra 70, yet has vanished with barely a trace.

Can anyone provide more information.

  • 2
    The history you linked doesn't really tell you much about the Mark IV, itself. Just a personal rambling as the author wandered through a long life that included Mark IV along the way. It appears that it ran (as GIRLS) on the IBM 701s, 704s, and 709s, and then (as Mark I, Mark II, and Mark III) on the 1401, before it ran on the IBM 360 as Mark III and Mark IV. Though it's a little sparse on the exact details. Mark IV was implemented on a lot of computers, including Hitachi's. I believe I may even worked on some software that interfaced with a batch processed Mark IV for Tek in the early 1980s.
    – jonk
    Aug 22, 2022 at 22:57
  • If you studied in a UK university, and have an alumnus account, you may be able to access IEEE Xplore using that (click on “Institutional Sign In” at the top of the page). Aug 23, 2022 at 11:05
  • Did (a long time ago), but don't have such an account.
    – user24174
    Aug 23, 2022 at 11:44

1 Answer 1


Mark IV appears to have been a report generation system, what was known in the 60s and 70s as a “file management system” (readers more familiar with older micro-computer software than mainframe software should compare this to “card management” tools like HyperCard or Windows’ Cardfile, and larger-scale software like Crystal Reports). GIRLS, the first iteration of the software, was described in the December 1962 issue of Datamation, but that doesn’t seem to be archived.

Mark IV is historically significant because it is part of a line of software with a number of “firsts”; Luanne Johnson’s paper, A View From the 1960s: How the Software Industry Began, provides more context. Mark IV is one of the first software packages, if not the first, to be sold as a separate commercial product. It is also the first piece of software to have its development sponsored by multiple potential clients. The series of software leading to Mark IV, developed by John Postley, was acquired by Informatics when Hughes “sold” AIS (Hughes actually paid Informatics to take over AIS); Postley wanted to port Mark III to the new IBM System/360, but Informatics couldn’t afford to fund its development in full, so Postley lined up five customers who each ponied up $100,000 to fund the project. Since Mark IV was the first software package sold as such, all the practices around such activities had to be invented, starting with setting a per-customer price ($30,000 initially, after much discussion). Informatics initially provided upgrades and support for free, but faced with mounting costs, started charging for support four years later. To avoid allowing customers to copy Mark IV, Informatics also invented the “licensing agreement” model for software distribution — customers didn’t buy the software outright, they bought a license to use it.

Postley mentions that Mark IV may also be the origin of the first software patent application; this was unsuccessful in the US, but patents were granted in Australia, the UK, Canada, and Japan. I haven’t looked the patents up, but they should provide much more insight into what the software actually did.

See also What was the first software company to go public?

  • The Johnson paper is behind the same paywall. :-( I'm really after details of the software rather than corporate history, being somewhat "geeky". The patents are a good lead though.
    – user24174
    Aug 23, 2022 at 14:09
  • 2
    Yup, I’m aware of the paywall, which is why I included a summary of the paper ;-). Aug 23, 2022 at 14:11
  • The patents link, although only an abstract, gives more insight. It seems to me that Mark IV was essentially an early DBMS, or at least a front end to the same. Anyhow, I've plumped for Dewey 005.74 which ought to be good enough. Thanks for the research and links, it's a fascinating window on the past that ought to be more widely known, perhaps I'll look at expanding the WP article if I can get more cited information.
    – user24174
    Aug 23, 2022 at 15:53
  • An “ad hoc” DBMS, yes — as I understand it, it could read data in a variety of different formats, efficiently (single-pass tape loads), run queries against the resulting dataset, and produce reports using the results of those queries. Aug 23, 2022 at 15:59
  • I worked for a company that used this in the 1970s and 1980s that used this. I think of it as a non-procedural language. You would define the input and output and the relationship between them but there was no conventional programming involved. Aug 26, 2022 at 8:45

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