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Anecdotes: Overcoming Murphy's Law

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129559D
Original Publication Date: 1988-Mar-31
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-06
Document File: 3 page(s) / 18K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

Richard Louis Weis: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

Assistant Professor Computer Science and Engineering The University of Hawaii at Hilo 623 W. Lanikaula Street Hilo, HI 96720 USA Note: In the early (and even later) days of computing, the process of demonstrating a fancy new labor-saving application to the people who authorized the trig money to pay for it was fraught with unknown dangers. Dick Weis here recounts an experience in dealing with Murphy's Law ... In the very early fifties business data processing was by way of manual efforts or, at best, NCR and IBM electric accounting machines. Our data was on paper or in punched cards, the programs were in wired panel or plugboards, and the operating system was a person. In fact, in 1952 I was an operating system about half my time moving trays of data from machine to machine and card hopper to card hopper. The rest of the time I was a programmer wishing I had something I could not even name.

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THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

Copyright ©; 1988 by the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. Used with permission.

Anecdotes: Overcoming Murphy's Law

Richard Louis Weis,

Assistant Professor Computer Science and Engineering The University of Hawaii at Hilo 623 W. Lanikaula Street Hilo, HI 96720 USA

Note: In the early (and even later) days of computing, the process of demonstrating a fancy new labor-saving application to the people who authorized the trig money to pay for it was fraught with unknown dangers. Dick Weis here recounts an experience in dealing with Murphy's Law ...

In the very early fifties business data processing was by way of manual efforts or, at best, NCR and IBM electric accounting machines. Our data was on paper or in punched cards, the programs were in wired panel or plugboards, and the operating system was a person. In fact, in 1952 I was an operating system about half my time moving trays of data from machine to machine and card hopper to card hopper. The rest of the time I was a programmer wishing I had something I could not even name.

In 1953 and 1954 the name came to me as GE did its usual and ordered the IBM 702. The name? The stored program, digital computer!

GE was a pioneer company in many ways and one of those was to order anything IBM announced whether they knew how to use it or not. Then came the push to find ways to put it to advantage in the normal GE business activities. The IBM 702, being a machine designed and announced for commercial business data processing, GE elected to put into this pending equipment all its payrolls for Schenectady and NYC headquarters.

That made of us a real showcase. There were not that many 702s ever planned or shipped. GE clearly was a leader in their application and, thus, the Rice Building computer center was planned not only for productive work but to display the results to advantage.

A trivial example of this was the placement in every office from the fifth floor elevator around to the center of a new IBM colored typewriter (color the selection of the secretary and typewriter courtesy of IBM). That IBM logo was the only one to be seen as any visitor headed toward the new computer.

The 702 demanded a very tightly controlled environment and the installation required temperature, humidity, and dust control so the computer center was built to hospital operating room standards. Without going into all the physical aspects of the 702 or the months of preparation for its arrival and installation, let us just recall it was physically a fairly large machine with separate devices in large grey cabinets to house card readers, tape drives, printers, and the banks of electrostatic memory (cathode ray tubes).

The operating console and logic were the focal point of the installation and from the console one could observe everything else. Being a tube device almost exclusively, the 702 demanded and got a lot of cold, conditio...