Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 34, No. 174. Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London Hosted by King's Digital Lab www.dhhumanist.org Submit to: firstname.lastname@example.org  From: Reg Harbeck
Subject: Re: [Humanist] 34.170: the role of the IBM System 360 & successors (31)  From: Willard McCarty Subject: perceptions of mainframes (42) -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Date: 2020-07-17 18:56:03+00:00 From: Reg Harbeck Subject: Re: [Humanist] 34.170: the role of the IBM System 360 & successors Thank you, Henry! I'm optimistic that I'm writing my thesis at an inflection point in the history of computing when we're ready to move from raw functionality to proto-wisdom. One reason for this is the end of Moore's Law, which means that all the platforms that have been relying on ever-expanding hardware capacity to make up for inefficient bloatware are going to be seriously reconsidered, while the wisdom-based principles, such as conservation of resources, that were brought to bear in creating the earliest generations of computing, and which are still inherent in platforms such as the System/360-descended mainframe, will start to be taken much more seriously. As we reconsider our future approaches to computing, we are also at a time when we are more seriously considering the humanity in other aspects of society and culture, while also retrenching on basic practical behaviours due to the pandemic. Bringing this together with the fact that the essential systems of record in the world economy, such as those that run banks, credit cards, insurance, finance, government tax/revenue/income supplements/military/etc., and other established, large-scale operations, are still substantially based on IBM System/360-descended mainframes, I think there is an important opportunity to reconsider computing from a perspective of humanity and wisdom, not just functionality. I look forward to further sharing on this topic with this list! - Reg Harbeck -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Date: 2020-07-17 07:39:51+00:00 From: Willard McCarty Subject: perceptions of mainframes For whatever it is worth, here is a brief recollection of my perceptions of mainframe machines when I was a computer operator in the 1960s. It does not concern the System 360 but may be relevant to Reg Harbeck's enquiry. Although I had a brief run-in with the IBM 704, my first sustained encounter with a proper mainframe was with an IBM 7094. This was followed by long exposure to a CDC 6600, whose input was managed by a CDC 6400. To cut to the chase: I realised almost immediately when we moved to the CDC (13 peripheral processors, at first 8 'simultaneous' jobs, then 64) that, as I thought of it at the time, the machine no longer needed me. As it finished with whatever jobs were current, it simply went on to other things. Formerly I had run the 7094 machine; now the 6600 was running itself. Actually the change that I noticed was a widespread phenomenon of automation, in which the role of the worker shifted to the role of a supervisor remote from much of what was happening. The literature on this aspect of the change is abundant. (See e.g. Lisanne Bainbridge, "Ironies of automation" , and Barry Strauch, "Ironies of automation: Still unresolved after all these years" .) On the ground, the change was remarkable enough that the memory of it has survived ca 55 years. One might say this was a personal experience of an 'ascent' up the computational layers of abstraction -- experienced as a curiosity and a loss. There was, I recall, a loss of the sense of craftsmanship, or something remotely akin to that. I regained a form of it when I became an assembly-language programmer, and of course again when many years later I had my own microcomputer. Impressionistically I would draw a connection between my sense of creative use or control and a relation to the machine of a more humane kind. But here we go into the fog, I fear. Yours, WM -- Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor emeritus, Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London; Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews (www.tandfonline.com/loi/yisr20) and Humanist (www.dhhumanist.org) _______________________________________________ Unsubscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted List posts to: email@example.com List info and archives at at: http://dhhumanist.org Listmember interface at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted/ Subscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/membership_form.php
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