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The IBM 650: An Appreciation from the Field

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129487D
Original Publication Date: 1986-Jan-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-06
Document File: 9 page(s) / 40K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

DONALD E. KNUTH: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

How does one summarize the persona/ reminiscences of another of the giants in the computer field? Don Knuth is also an artist, of course, as witness his comments on Poley's code and his ";Art of Computer Programming. "; Knuth was a tremendous help to me in preparing this special issue. He wrote to other participants and encouraged them and me. Here is a letter he wrote me as this project was starting: [Figure containing following caption omitted: Dear Cuthbert, When you asked if I might be interested in writing something about the IBM 650, I thought I might be able to come up with about two pages worth of stuff. But when I began to reminisce, it became clear that I should write about ten times as much as I had originally thought. Here is the result; I hope you like it. Tears ran from my eyes as I (sob) wrote the conclusion!]

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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.

The IBM 650: An Appreciation from the Field

DONALD E. KNUTH

(Image Omitted: Note: The preparation of this paper was supported in part by National Science Foundation grant MCS-83-00984 © 1986 by the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. Permission to copy without fee all or part 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, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. Categories and Subject Descriptors: C.1.1 [Processor Architectures], Single Data Stream Architectures; K.2 [History of Computing] hardware, IBM 650, people, RUPICIBLE, SOAP, software General Terms: Design, Languages. Additional Key Words and Phrases: education. © 1986 AFIPS 0164-1239/86/010050-055

The IBM 650: An Appreciation from the Field

DONALD E. KNUTH .00/00)

Editor's Note

How does one summarize the persona/ reminiscences of another of the giants in the computer field? Don Knuth is also an artist, of course, as witness his comments on Poley's code and his "Art of Computer Programming. " Knuth was a tremendous help to me in preparing this special issue. He wrote to other participants and encouraged them and me. Here is a letter he wrote me as this project was starting:

  (Image Omitted: Dear Cuthbert, When you asked if I might be interested in writing something about the IBM 650, I thought I might be able to come up with about two pages worth of stuff. But when I began to reminisce, it became clear that I should write about ten times as much as I had originally thought. Here is the result; I hope you like it. Tears ran from my eyes as I (sob) wrote the conclusion!)

I suppose it was natural for a person like me to fall in love with his first computer. But there was something special about the IBM 650, something that has provided the inspiration for much of my life's work. Somehow this machine was powerful in spite of its severe limitations. Somehow it was friendly in spite of its primitive man- machine interface.

I had just turned 19 when I was offered a part-time job helping the statisticians at Case Institute of Technology. My first task was to draw graphs; but soon I was given some keypunching duties, and I was taught how to use the wondrous card sorter. Meanwhile a strange new machine had been installed across the hall -- it was what our student newspaper called "an IBM 650 Univac," or a "giant brain." I was fascinated to look through the window and see the lights flashing on its console.

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