System/360

 

On November 23, 2022, RIP Frederick Brooks, father of IBM’s System/360. In an interview ten years ago he mentioned a lot of major computer history events, major people he crossed paths with (Gene Amdahl, Gordon Bell, the Steves – Jobs and Wozniack, Grace Hopper), languages (including ALGOL and such forgotten rarities as PL/I), etc. This system, introduced in 1964, was the world’s mainstay of so called mainframe computing for decades, while its descendants are still running today. Inter alia, he says that around the end of Eisenhower – beginning of Kennedy time he took part in evaluating the Soviet level of computing. It was found to be about 7 years behind that of the US. I suspect the gap was wider. It did take the USSR until 1971 to emulate the 360 architecture and introduce what was called ES EVM (ЕС ЭВМ). When in 1978 it became known at my workplace that I was applying to emigrate, a well-meaning coworker reproached me for not letting him know in advance, so he could coach me in that system better to prepare me for the New World (letting random people know about such plans was not an advisable step in a dictatorship). When I started working across the pond the following year, it was on minis from Data General, part of the burgeoning computer industry cluster along “America’s Technology Highway” (Route 128). To illustrate the gap, I was puzzled on my first day, where and how I should physically put programs into the computer. Typing on a keyboard in front of a terminal was not familiar and did not seem like a sufficient step. I was used to punchcards whose holes sometimes had to be fixed by hand. Unix, PC, Internet and much else were still in the future.

Here is the obituary.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/23/technology/frederick-p-brooks-jr-dead.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share&referringSource=articleShare
 

Here is the interview.

https://archive.computerhistory.org/resources/access/text/2012/11/102658255-05-01-acc.pdf