The Advanced/36 is physically smaller than other S/36 offerings, but because it contains much more advanced technology, it is the most robust and powerful. Also, because it was sold 11 years after the 5360 and 5362 system units, it was cheaper, with prices beginning at US$7995. (The smallest 5362 sold for about US$20,000, and a maxed-out 5360 sold for upwards of US$200,000.)
The maximum configuration of an Advanced/36 is 4.19 Gb of disk storage, 256 Mb of memory, one tape drive, and one single 8" diskette drive.
The A/36 was marketed in three packages: the Small package, the Growth package, and the Large package. Machines sold in 1994 contained a version of the System Support Program (SSP) operating system designated "7.1". In 1995, an upgraded A/36 was offered with a version of SSP designated "7.5". They were not compatible because they were integrated into the licensed code.
The standard A/36 shipped with a very popular application called POP, or Programmer/Operator Productivity. POP was so popular on the earlier S/36 that more copies were pirated than sold, according to industry publications. POP added a point-and-shoot interface for S/36 objects such as libraries and files, and a full-screen text editor that more closely resembled AS/400 SEU than System/36 SEU.
One difference between the A/36 and earlier S/36s is the 9402 Tape Drive. This is the standard 1/4" cartridge which can store up to 2.5 Gb of data. For A/36 customers, a complete backup of the system can fit on one cartridge. The 9402 is similar to the 6157 Tape Drive but much more condensed. The 9402 is backward-compatible for read purposes - the A/36 can read the 60MB tapes from a 6157 but cannot write to them; likewise the S/36 with a 6157 can write the 60MB tape but cannot read the 250MB or 2.5Gb tapes from the A/36.
The A/36 CD-ROM drive, interestingly, cannot contain customer data and cannot be used to play music, even though it is equipped with a headphone jack. It is provided for PTF installation only. PTF CDs can only be applied if the operator follows a bypass procedure to switch device codes with the tape unit. The CD unit becomes TC.
The A/36 8" diskette drive is optional and was marketed for approximately US$1,000. It was the easiest way to save files or programs from an A/36 and restore on a S/36.
By the year 2000, the A/36 was no longer being marketed; however, SSP could be run on the AS/400 Model 150 and Model 170.
The front panel of the A/36 is completely different. The operator can pry open a small drive bay-sized enclosure and reveal an LCD panel with hexadecimal digits as follows:
B N 05469463
The eight hexadecimal digits change during IPL and document the presently-executing IPL stage. If an error occurs during IPL, it is possible to write down the 8 digits, look up the associated IPL stage in a small IBM-supplied manual, and take the appropriate response.