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Prestige Luster' and 'Snow-Balling Effects': IBM's Development of Computer Time-Sharing

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129880D
Original Publication Date: 1995-Jun-30
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-07
Document File: 8 page(s) / 36K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

JUDY E. O'NEILL: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

In the middle 1960s IBM responded to pressure from its most prestigious customers to hasten me development and availability of computer time-sharing systems. When MIT and Bell Laboratories chose General Electric computers for their new time-sharing system, IBM management feared that the ";prestige luster"; of these customers would lead other customers to demand the same capabilities and that mere would be a ";snow-balling"; effect as more customers rejected IBM computers. IBM worked on a time-sharing product and brought it to market by me end of me decade despite greater-than- expected costs. Meanwhile MIT, Bell Laboratories, and GE worked together on a new timesharing system known as Multics. By examining IBM's role in and response to me development of time- sharing, this article illustrates the nontechnological criteria that even high-technology companies use to decide what products to develop and market. In August 1964 the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Project MAC announced that it would use General Electric (GE) computers for its new time-sharing computer system. This was not good news to IBM and started a chain of events that led to the development of large-scale time-sharing. These events illustrate how nontechnological criteria can influence ";high-technology"; businesses in deciding what products to develop and market.

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THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

Copyright ©; 1995 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

'Prestige Luster' and 'Snow-Balling Effects': IBM's Development of Computer Time-Sharing

JUDY E. O'NEILL

In the middle 1960s IBM responded to pressure from its most prestigious customers to hasten me development and availability of computer time-sharing systems. When MIT and Bell Laboratories chose General Electric computers for their new time-sharing system, IBM management feared that the "prestige luster" of these customers would lead other customers to demand the same capabilities and that mere would be a "snow-balling" effect as more customers rejected IBM computers. IBM worked on a time-sharing product and brought it to market by me end of me decade despite greater-than- expected costs. Meanwhile MIT, Bell Laboratories, and GE worked together on a new timesharing system known as Multics.

By examining IBM's role in and response to me development of time- sharing, this article illustrates the nontechnological criteria that even high-technology companies use to decide what products to develop and market.

In August 1964 the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Project MAC announced that it would use General Electric (GE) computers for its new time-sharing computer system. This was not good news to IBM and started a chain of events that led to the development of large- scale time-sharing. These events illustrate how nontechnological criteria can influence "high- technology" businesses in deciding what products to develop and market.

Started the previous year with generous funding from the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA),' Project MAC was at the forefront of research and development of interactive computing, particularly time- sharing; even its name reflected an interest in time-sharing, as one of the acronyms for MAC was Multi-Access Computing. Time-sharing, the seemingly simultaneous use of a computer by several people, represented a vision of computing's future -- many people accessing a very large computer through terminals. Leaders of Project MAC referred to this mode of computer usage as a "computer utility" whereby a single source of computing power could be used by many different subscribers in a variety of locations. This was in marked contrast to the way most computers were then being used. Most users never got near the computers they used. Rather, they wrote instructions, punched cards, submitted decks of cards to the computer operators, and received back a printed listing of the results. This process allowed the computer to execute batches of programs in rapid order without waiting for people to provide input or respond to output. Hence the name "batch processing."

Wanted: Manufacturer to share a vision

For the preceding three years, even before Project MAC was formed, staff at MIT had a vision of how computers should...