It took Len Shustek, chairman of the board of trustees of the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, 10 years to get permission from IBM to publish the APL/360 source code. Not only has he gone and done it, he’s also written a wonderful companion explanatory essay to go along with its publication. Please see: The APL Programming Language Source Code
Congratulations, Len! Thank you for your persistence.
(Special thanks to the ever vigilant Christian Langreiter for scooping this story)
As they say in rock and roll, “You can’t always get what you want… but you just might find you get what you need…”
When Ken Lettow asked me if he could swing down to North Carolina for my interview with Professor Fred Brooks, I answered with a resounding and emphatic, “NO!”
You gotta love Ken. Persistence is his middle name. He then proceeded to convince me that he would not bring havoc to my film set and in fact, he would make himself useful. And a short training session later… I have a sound engineer and set photographer all in one enthusiastic bundle of a subject matter expertise. In short, a much appreciated helping hand.
In honour of the 90th anniversary of Ken Iverson’s birth Ken Lettow sent out a wonderful account of our adventure to North Carolina to the J-Chat forum:
As [KEI and Prof Brooks] developed course material for the class, Ken began to formalize the notation that came to be known as APL, the “the blackboard version” as Eugene McDonnell once so aptly put it. Their collaboration ultimately resulted in the publication of two books, Ken Iverson’s “A Programming Language”, in 1962 and “Automatic Data Processing” by Iverson and Brooks, published in 1963. They also became lifelong friends during this period.
You can read Ken’s full text here. He’s also posted a great set of photos.
Happy holidays everyone. May the Force be with you always.
Running in High Park this evening, I was contemplating what more to say about The Design of Design now that I am about 1/3 of the way through.
Rather than calculating that number, I’m visually estimating it, by the way.
Brooks claims that most programmers are visual/spacial thinkers. Which is part of his larger thesis about modeling a software design process, but that’s not what I want to talk about today.
Right around here in the park, where I shot this photo earlier this summer, it struck me. I love the way Brooks is able to sprinkle anecdotes about working on the architecture for IBM’s System/360 45 years ago with insightful analysis of modern design practices. This guy has seen it all.
And hey! That’s what I have to do. Or some Catherine tempered approximation.
And it’s not just me who thinks this is important. Wired interviewed him this summer, where, incidentally, he confessed to becoming interested in computers in the 1940’s because he wanted to index his maps.
Now we’re all interested in indexing maps… And guess who I’m getting myself ready to call.