In Memoriam: Gene Amdahl 1922-2015

Adrian Stoness tdk.knight at
Fri Nov 13 01:07:42 CST 2015

this wound up in my spam box

On Thu, Nov 12, 2015 at 8:24 PM, Christian Liendo <
christian_liendo at> wrote:

> Gene Amdahl, who formulated Amdahl's Law and worked with IBM and others on
> developments related to mainframe computing, died recently from
> complications of pneumonia.
> American computer architect and high-tech entrepreneur Gene Myron Amdahl
> died Tuesday at the age of 92.
> Amdahl’s wife Marian said he had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for
> about five years, before succumbing to pneumonia. "We are thankful for his
> kind spirit and brilliant mind.  He was a devout Christian and a loving
> father and husband. I was blessed with having him as my husband and my best
> friend.  I praise God for His faithfulness to us for more than 69 years."
> Born to immigrant parents in South Dakota, Amdahl served in the U.S. Navy
> during World War II. He completed a bachelor’s degree in engineering
> physics at South Dakota State University in 1948 and went on to study
> theoretical physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he
> received his doctorate in 1952.
> Amdahl joined IBM in 1952, where he worked on the IBM 704, the IBM 709,
> and then the Stretch project, the basis for the IBM 7030. He left IBM in
> 1955 but returned in 1960 and became chief architect of the System/360
> mainframe computer. Amdahl was named an IBM Fellow in 1965, as well as head
> of the IBM Advanced Computing Systems Laboratory in Menlo Park, CA. He left
> IBM again in 1970 and set up Amdahl Corporation, which specialized in IBM
> mainframe-compatible computer products, with the help of Fujitsu.
> The company manufactured "plug-compatible" mainframes, starting in 1975
> with the Amdahl 470V/6, a less-expensive, more-reliable, faster alternative
> to IBM’s System 370/168. Amdahl's software team developed Virtual
> Machine/Performance Enhancement (VM/PE) software to optimize the
> performance of IBM's Multiple Virtual Storage (MVS) operating system when
> running under IBM's VM operating system. Within four years, the corporation
> had sold more than $1 billion of V6 and V7 mainframes and had more than
> 6,000 employees worldwide.
> At ACM's Spring Joint Computer Conference in 1967, Amdahl participated  in
> a discussion on future architectural trends, arguing for performance
> limitations in any special feature or mode introduced to new machines. This
> resulted in what came to be known as Amdahl’s Law regarding sequential vs.
> parallel processing.
> Amdahl left his company in 1979 to set up Trilogy Systems, an organization
> aimed at designing an integrated chip for even cheaper mainframes. When the
> chip development failed within months of the company's $60-million public
> offering, Trilogy focused on developing its VLSI technology, which also did
> not do well. In 1985 Trilogy was merged into microcomputer manufacturer
> Elxsi (now Tata Elxsi), but poor results there had Amdahl leaving in 1989
> for a company he founded in 1987 to produce mid-sized mainframes, Andor
> International, which had been driven into bankruptcy by production problems
> and strong competition by 1995.
> In 1996 Amdahl co-founded Commercial Data Servers, again developing
> mainframe-like machines but this time with new super-cooled processor
> designs and aimed at physically smaller systems. The company, now known as
> Xbridge Systems, develops software to scan mainframe datasets and database
> tables for sensitive information such as credit card numbers, government
> identification numbers, and medical diagnosis information.
> In November 2004, Amdahl was appointed to the board of advisors of
> Massively Parallel Technologies, a Scottsdale, AZ, software engineering
> firm.
> Amdahl was a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the
> recipient of honorary doctorates from four institutions. He also was the
> recipient of the IEEE’s  Harry H. Goode Memorial Award, a Fellow of the
> Computer History Museum, and recipient of the ACM Special Interest Group on
> Design Automation (SIGDA) Pioneering Achievement Award.
> Said David Patterson, a professor of computer sciences at the University
> of California, Berkeley, and a computer pioneer in his own right, "The IBM
> System/360 was one of the greatest computer architectures of all time,
> being both a tremendous technical success and business success. It invented
> a computer family, which we would call binary compatibility today. When he
> left to form his own company, his mainframes were binary compatible with
> the System/360."
> Patterson noted the brief paper Amdahl submitted to ACM’s Spring Joint
> Computer Conference "basically offering a critique to enthusiasts about the
> parallel supercomputers of the era." He cited the beginning of that paper
> as laying out the arguments for what became  Amdahl's Law:

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