IBM user group to celebrate 50th anniversary
'Computer Collector Newsletter'
news at computercollector.com
Wed Aug 17 20:51:14 CDT 2005
>>> Definitely a classic story - appeared in Australian IT news today....
We covered this in the July 5 issue of Computer Collector
In 1955, engineers from 17 large companies and government agencies gathered
at Rand Corp.'s Los Angeles facility to form what could be the very first
computer user group, Share. What they had in common was use of the IBM 701
vacuum tube computer. The following year, the IBM 704 commercialized core
memory and floating-point math, along with Fortran and Lisp. Also in 1956,
Thomas Watson Sr. died at age 82.
(See http://tinyurl.com/7g63c for details on the IBM 701.)
Share, however, didn't just succeed, it exploded. In addition to Rand, the
founding parties included Boeing, California Research, Curtiss-Wright,
General Electric, General Motors, Hughes Aircraft, IBM Computing Bureau, IBM
Scientific Computing Center, Lockheed Aircraft (and missile systems and
Georgia divisions), Los Alamos Laboratory, North American Aviation, the
National Security Agency, Radiation Laboratory, United Aircraft Corporation,
and unofficially, Douglas Aircraft. Share's membership in 2005 includes 80
percent of the Fortune 500, president Robert Rosen said.
The group began celebrating its 50th anniversay at a recent meeting in
Anaheim, Calif., just up the highway from Los Angeles. Next month (Aug.
21-26) in Boston is the major event, and there are several history sessions
planned to celebrate the anniversary.
"We're trying to get some of the old-timers to come back to reminisce about
how things were and how things changed over the years," Rosen said. He
doesn't think any of the founding members are alive, but there may be
members who were involved in the late 1950s, he said.
There will also be an exhibit of vintage circuit boards, manuals, and
original Share attendee's meeting notes, all on a much larger scale than at
the Anaheim meeting. There will also be sessions devoted to historic Big
Blue songs and buttons. (Check out the Computerworld article at
http://tinyurl.com/bp2x6 and, better yet, visit
http://www.mxg.com/thebuttonman/ to listen to the 1975 "MVS is breaking my
heart - Boney fingers" song and see a button collection.)
Besides helping the users, Share influenced Big Blue itself on several
occassions, Rosen said. "People don't realize it, but Share invented the
open-source model. People would write code and contribute it to the Share
Program Library Agency. People would contribute programs, modify it, and
Share would distribute all of this free of charge. So Share was way ahead
of its time," he noted. A review board would pick the best code if there
were duplicate functions.
White papers were also a major part in which Share influenced IBM decisions.
Rosen himself in the mid-1980s wrote a paper that became the basis for the
RS6000 computer, he said. Later, Share was influential in making Unicode a
standard, he added.
Looking at how user groups/vendor relationship changed over time, "What you
see now is, we say here's the fix we need, and here's the business case for
it," Rosen said.
These days, companies still running mainframes have a need for systems
programmers, as most qualified people are retired. It's also become clear
that the distributed systems community is still learning from mainframe
concepts, such as server virtualization and storage management. "While we
have a great respect for the past and we're obviously celebrating our 50th
anniversary, we're also looking forward to the future. What's amazing is
the number of people who were around Share for a long time, so you can get
that perspective," Rosen said.
"I can look at all these computer journals and everything and say I did this
and see how wonderful it was. You never see the ones saying look what a
disaster it was. You can find what people did that didn't work so you don't
make the same mistake."
So, 50 years later and hopefully in 2055 as well, "The sharing of knowledge
is probably the key element that Share brings to the table.
The sharing of knowledge, it's probably worth its weight in gold."
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