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Ibm 360 | Chasing Men Who Stare at Arrays

Archive for the 'IBM 360' Category

My hero! Shustek, APL/360 & 10 Years Later

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)

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Lettow on Brooks honouring the 90th anniversary of KEI’s birth

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.

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The time space continuum

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.

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The Design of Design

This is how Friday went down:

I’m running late, tearing through the house in a where the heck is my bag, sort of way, and then… up pulls the UPS truck.

My books!

Late or not, my Amazon instinct kicks in… luckily the boxes are perfectly designed, they rip open with no struggle at all.  It’s Fred Brook’s new book, of course, The Design of Design. I drop the packaging and immediately flip to the People Index and search for Iverson (p. 72, 124 & 378). Wow.  Twice Brooks juxtaposes Ken Iverson with Google’s Marissa Mayer.  I make a mental note to ask Matt & Susan Gorbet if they know her.

Then I repeat with the subject index and look up APL (p. 72, 124, 141 348). They’re different.  Why?

Well, don’t you know it,  I find an example of not elegant design (pp 141-142) that echos a similar criticism made by Richard Bookstaber in A Demon of Our Own Design. Man oh man are we easy targets! And I’m completely floored – because I believe it is an urban myth.  Not so much that it has never happened, but I don’t believe it has been significant.  But, I guess it makes a good anecdote.  AND sorry folks, I’m not even going to say it because I don’t want to perpetuate its existence in cyberspace.  If you’re burning to know, buy the books!

And just to be extra clear, this is my opinion. And Fred Brooks rocks, so I’m… well… I guess I’m in the dog house again.

Bread Crumbs

In the early 1960’s, Brooks led the IBM System/360 hardware and software project which gave birth to a family of machines with interchangeable software that lead to IBM’s domination of the computer industry for the next 25 years.

Out of Their Minds page 158

Fred Brooks and Ken Iverson were together at Harvard in the 1950’s.   Iverson was hired by IBM in 1960 to develop his special mathematical notation into a programming language for the IBM/360.  And that’s how APL and its family of Array Processing Languages were born.

So…  Guys… I have the best job in the world. It’s terrible form to boast but I just can’t help myself today. After a difficult and trying summer not one, but a few people from the APL Array Language community have stepped up to steady my ship and blow some wind in my sails.  And this feels great.

We rock on!

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