IBM System/360 Green Card

I recently discovered a treasured artifact from my earliest days learning computer programming, an IBM System/360 Reference Data card, known as a “Green Card.” This card dates back to about 1968, although I probably acquired it around 1970.


I scanned the card and I’m making it available for download as a PDF (11Mb). It is rather large, both in file size and in dimensions, it would print at full size at over 25 inches wide, although it folded into a nice 14 page format. You could easily tell who was an IBM/360 assembly language programmer because they always had a Green Card tucked in their shirt pocket, right behind their pocket protector.

28 thoughts on “IBM System/360 Green Card”

  1. I have my green card too.
    I also have a yellow, pink and blue card (one is 370, one is 370/xa and one is 370/ESA)
    actually, the 3 ‘cards’ are small stapled books.

  2. The collest thing at the University was to have the green card LAMINATED, the koolest of the Kool!
    However, they tended to grow feet after that.

  3. I was issued my green card in 1982 when I went to the Marine Corps COBOL programming course in Quantico VA. I traded it for a couple of IBM mugs years later at a VTAM Course at a IBM training faclility. Wish I still had it.

  4. I believe I still have a green card packed away. When the yellow cards came out to replace the green card, I wrote at the top of the card “Green card”. LOL.

  5. I just found my Green Card from when I was an IBM Customer Engineer. Mine has a -6 on the document number which I think means version 6. X20-1703-6
    [Interesting. I hadn’t considered version numbers. I checked my PDF, it is numbered GX20-1703-9. –Charles]

  6. Yup, got mine too, and I’m still working at IBM after 37 years – just amazing. So I was using it today when I had to look up some powers of two. It is still right on my desk next to my yellow card, laptop, 21″ flat screen, KVM switch, and PS3 – my have things changed. Oh, BTW, I have X20-1703-3. It’s getting a bit faded, but so am I.
    [Always glad to hear the old Green Card still has practical use. I remember using that section constantly when I was first learning binary/hex/octal math. I looked card by the powers of two, ooh I never noticed that section 2^0 = 16^0, 2^4 = 16^1.. very interesting. –Charles]

  7. I have my green card also. I retired July 2006. I cut my teeth on System/360 Basic Assembler Language. I loved that language. Is BAL being used anywhere these days?
    [I have no idea, but surely there are legacy systems out there still running it, someone must maintain them. –Charles]

  8. Back in 1970 ; when I started taking assembler Programming classes here at Miami Dade Jr College (north campus)Fla. I also had a green card but it got worn out and I never replace it.Flowchart template too. Its amazing how it all became “some what” prehistoric yet its foundation still remains solid in man’s technical efforts by leaving it all behind with far advanced technics!
    [I remember that flowchart template, I desperately wanted one but I never managed to get one for myself. –Charles]

  9. I work at a Nursing/Assisted Living corp as maintenance and recently found a 360 flow chart stencil with symbols on it?????????
    [I’d love to get my hands on one of those stencils. I tried to get a stencil back in the day, but they were even harder to get than a Green Card. –Charles]

  10. Charles wrote that “but surely there are legacy systems out there still running it ( BAL ), someone must maintain them.”
    I am here to tell you that a good number of REALLY large companies, like United Airlines, the I.R.S., Manufacturers Hanover Bank, VISA, Continental Airlines, Marriott Hotels and others are today developing and enhancing systems on IBM mainframes running IBM’s TPF operating system using Assembler Language ( its OLD name was BAL ). These folks NEED to process in excess of 10,000 TRANSACTIONS per second, and they get THAT kind of through put with Assembler Language on IBM System 390’s, and newer machines.
    The INTEL chips are like broken kiddies toys compared with the magnificent architecture of the IBM mainframes. But then you get what you pay for; i.e. $200 bucks for an INTEL chip vs. $7 millions for an IBM mainframe. And for $7 m. you DO GET a magnificent programming environment.
    And I still have my 1968 IBM green card and my 2001 Principles of Operation.

  11. I used IBM 360/44 at St Andrews University, Scotland in the late 1970s. It was already very long in the tooth, but it was a wonderful start in the world of programming.
    I used Fortran IV, BAL, and of course, the dreaded JCL, all on punched cards. We didn’t get the 2260 terminals and a programming editor until late in the day.
    There is a nice series of colour photos here –
    I’m afraid my green card is long gone. But if anyone still has one …

  12. Thanks for the IBM Green Card. I actually just needed some info from it…
    [I am glad I could be of service. But what information did you need? Are you running a production IBM/360 system? Now I’m curious. –Charles]

  13. Thanks for reminding me 🙂 Just found my old green card from 1971 as well as a buff card for the IBM 370 when I was working at Eaton Corporation – fond memories.
    I must be getting old but also found a IBM 360 Principles of Operation from that time as well.
    Those were the days. All those core dumps and trying to solve the program mainttenance issue. Michael Jackson certainly helped here (not the singer 🙂
    Cheers Loz

  14. I cant imagine a 360 running anywhere. My work on those was a lifetime ago. To answer your curiousity, I want trying to confirm a ranking order of some special characters.
    {Ah, good old EBCDIC. –Charles]

  15. Ahhh, my baby 360. I was an IBM-Memorex CE fresh out of school and working that DASD cabling under the floor at Manufacturer’s Hanover Bank in mid-town Manhatten circa 1970. Had my green card and couldn’t live without it. I tell the ‘youngsters’ today about it and they can’t grasp having to convert any base to any base. Too bad junior; get a PCP life!
    Long live 360/75!
    Ernie to love CCW, PSW….

  16. Thank you for the IBM Green Card. It brings back fond memories of learning IBM/360
    BAL & COBOL.
    I will add this to my other tools of a past trade (original Flowcharting Template
    and a Printer Spacing Chart Ruler. Remember the IBM 1403
    Printer? Thanks again.

  17. Thank you Richard Haley! I’m taking a job as an ALC programmer to upgrade a system from ALC to COBOL (head first into the 1980s), and I was looking for just that! I have several of my old green cards and the yellow card from my old ALC days, but had lost the yellow booklet. Also lost my orange CICS reference card, darn it.

  18. I was just looking at a file and wanted to know what ‘4B’ was with hex on in a file and thought if I only had my old Green Card. Googled IBM Green Card and found this one and found out ‘4B’ is a period. That’s what I thought it was.

  19. This really brings back some memories. Worked my Computer Science Degree course industrial placement year on a 370/148. It was at the head office in Chesterfield (in the U.K.) of Kenning’s – the van hire company. Mostly COBOL, but some BAL too. Great times….

  20. I have several 360 green cards and 370 yellow cards. I want to get one of them framed under low E glass. I starated programming back in 1974 on an IBM-360 Model 30. I used to have an RPG layout guide card that you could put on a listing and determine if you were off by a column

  21. Hello,
    I loved to write BAL ( Basic Assembler Language) back in the days. I also wrote BAL Macros which proved very useful. Any one know of a online community of IBM 360 BAL fossils like me out there so I can reminisce the good ol days?
    I went to Madison Area Technical College 1966-1968 and worked there for over 38 years. Worked on IBM/360 Models 30 and 40. We even had a Sperry Univac 90/60 that ran the IBM instruction set.
    I was a Senior Programmer and loved to write in BAL.
    Remember what SPOOL stands for?
    I have the following items:
    • The infamous green card ( e.g., IBM System/360 Reference Data Card GX20-1703-9.
    • The IBM Flowcharting template Form X20-8020
    • The IBM Structured Programming Flowcharting Template SR20-7151-0.
    • A PDF of “IBM Principles of Operation BAL SA22-7832-03” SA22-7832-03 Fourth Edition (May, 2004) if anyone want a copy.
    • The IBM RPG ( Report Program Generator) Debugging Template GX21-9129-12.
    • A metal ruler used on computer printer output.

  22. Hello,
    I have several 360 green cards and 370 yellow cards. I starated programming back in 1968 on an IBM-360 Model 30, then Sperry Univac 90/60, and IBM 360/40. I have an RPG layout guide card that you could put on a listing and determine if you were off by a column.
    Anybody know a Blog for old mainframes like me? I’m retired since 2006 as a Web Master from Madison Area Technical College, Madison, WI.

  23. Hi Charles,
    I have a -7 revision green card, I had to go and find it after reading your blog.
    If you’d like them, I have three revisions of the 370 yellow card I can scan. Also the Flowcharting template GX20-8020 and the HIPO template GX20-1971 in their original jackets which are scannable.

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