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Two Thousand Words and Two Thousand Ideas The 650 at Carnegie

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129485D
Original Publication Date: 1986-Jan-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-06
Document File: 7 page(s) / 32K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

ALAN J. PERLIS: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

Here is an extraordinary paper, filled with ideas and harbingers of the future. The last paragraph might well be framed and placed on the walls of many universities and research centers. Prior to the first commercial drum computers (see Carr and Perlis 1954), only a few universities building computers under defense contracts had access to electronic digital computers. Other equally good commercial drum machines were available, but it was the IBM 650 that opened the tool of digital computation to American universities. A major contributing cause was the generous and farsighted grant of 60 percent rental provided by IBM. Along with the computer came opportunities and problems: How, where, and by whom would it be administered? What were the important problems the computer would help to solve? Where did it fit into the educational and research environment? How would it be paid for? Who would use it, and how would it be used? At Carnegie Tech (now CMU) the 650 arrived in July 1956. Earlier in the spring I had accepted the directorship of a new computation center at Carnegie that was to be its cocoon. Joseph W. Smith, a mathematics graduate student at Purdue, also came to fill out the technical staff. A secretary-keypuncher, Peg Lester, and a Tech math grad student, Harold Van Zoeren, completed the staff later that summer. The complete annual budget -- computer, personnel, and supplies -- was $50,000. During the tenure of the 650, the center budget never exceeded $85,000. Before the arrival of the computer, a few graduate students and junior faculty in engineering and science had been granted evening access to a 650 at Mellon National Bank. In support of their research, the 650, largely programmed using the Wolontis-Bell Labs three-address interpreter system, proved invaluable. The success of their efforts was an important source of support for the newly established Computation Center.

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THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

Copyright ©; 1986 by the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. Used with permission.

Two Thousand Words and Two Thousand Ideas The 650 at Carnegie

ALAN J. PERLIS

(Image Omitted: © 1986 by the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. Permission to copy without fee all or pan of this material is granted provided that the copies are not made or distributed for direct commercial advantage, the AFIPS copyright notice and the title of the publication and its date appear, and notice is given that the copying is by permission of the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. To copy otherwise, or to republish, requires specific permission. Author's Address: Computer Science Department, Yale University, P.O. Box 2158, New Haven, CT 06520-2158. Categories and Subject Descriptors: C.l.1 [Processor Architectures], Single Data Stream Architectures; K.2 [History of Computing] -- hardware, CATE, IBM 650, IT, people, software, TASS. General Terms: Design, Languages. Additional Key Words and Phrases: education. © 1986 AFIPS 0164-1239/86/010042-046

Two Thousand Words and Two Thousand Ideas The 650 at Carnegie

ALAN J. PERLIS .00/0)

Editor's Note

Here is an extraordinary paper, filled with ideas and harbingers of the future. The last paragraph might well be framed and placed on the walls of many universities and research centers.

Prior to the first commercial drum computers (see Carr and Perlis 1954), only a few universities building computers under defense contracts had access to electronic digital computers. Other equally good commercial drum machines were available, but it was the IBM 650 that opened the tool of digital computation to American universities. A major contributing cause was the generous and farsighted grant of 60 percent rental provided by IBM. Along with the computer came opportunities and problems: How, where, and by whom would it be administered? What were the important problems the computer would help to solve? Where did it fit into the educational and research environment? How would it be paid for? Who would use it, and how would it be used?

At Carnegie Tech (now CMU) the 650 arrived in July 1956. Earlier in the spring I had accepted the directorship of a new computation center at Carnegie that was to be its cocoon. Joseph W. Smith, a mathematics graduate student at Purdue, also came to fill out the technical staff. A secretary-keypuncher, Peg Lester, and a Tech math grad student, Harold Van Zoeren, completed the staff later that summer. The complete annual budget -- computer, personnel, and supplies -- was $50,000. During the tenure of the 650, the center budget never exceeded $85,000. Before the arrival of the computer, a few graduate students and junior faculty in engineering and science had been granted evening access to a 650 at Mellon National Bank. In support of their research, the 650, largely p...