To its predecessor, the 1953 built IBM 701, also called Defense Calculator, whose vast production went to the U.S. Department of Defense and the military aircraft industry, the IBM 704 was not compatible. The computer had an improved computer architecture, three additional index registers and core memory instead of Williams tubes. The new instruction set became the basis of IBM 700/7000-Großrechnerserie.
According to the manufacturer, who sold to 1960 123 units, the IBM 704 could carry up to 40,000 instructions per second. The programming languages Fortran and LISP were first developed for this computer. The naming of the primitive Lisp commands for dealing with lists ( car, cdr ) Go back to today to the designation of the registers of the IBM 704. The letters in the word car refer to the English description "Contents of the Address part of Register" ( contents of Registeradreßteils ) and in cdr on the English description "Contents of the Decrement part of Register" ( contents of Registerdekrementteils ).