[TUHS] mainframe $ budgets [was Re: Re: SNOBOL and RATSNO

Marc Donner marc.donner at gmail.com
Wed Aug 10 06:58:49 AEST 2022


I joined IBM Research in Yorktown in 1978.  I was an electrical engineer
and one of the first problems I was given was modeling a novel concept for
an X-Y touch panel.  I realized that the model is basically solving
Laplace's equation in the plane.  I was not a programmer at the time, so I
asked what was the recommended thing for that.  I was told APL, so I
grabbed a manual and got to work.

Within a day or two I had a nice solver working and was getting useful

(Of course, solving Laplace in the plane by relaxation is the slowest
possible way to get to the answer, but I didn't know much about numerical
methods back in those days.)

The next week I got a visit from the same IT weenies who had bothered you.
They told me that in my first week on the job I had managed to be the
biggest consumer of CPU cycles on the 370/168 and that I had to learn to
program in PL/I because compiled was better than interpreted.  It took me
several weeks to get it working, since PL/I was such a pain in the neck and
I had to learn all sorts of stuff about how numbers were represented in the

Obviously my time was worth less than the computer's.

mindthegapdialogs.com/home <https://www.mindthegapdialogs.com/home>

On Tue, Aug 9, 2022 at 4:43 PM Charles H Sauer (he/him) <
sauer at technologists.com> wrote:

> Early on in my career at IBM Yorktown, ca. 1976, I was submitting many
> long running simulation jobs to the 360/91 there. At one point, the head
> of computer systems (I.T. if you will) wrote to the head of computer
> sciences (my department) complaining that I had just spent $50K over
> some short period, asking if this was justified. My management shrugged
> it off, encouraged me to continue what I was doing. I might still have
> the letter somewhere.
> A couple of years later, while on the faculty at U.T. Austin, one of the
> main budgetary items in research grant proposals was purchase of
> mini-computers, assuming those were a more efficient use of funds than
> paying for time at the campus computing center (then using CDC 6600 and
> successors).
> Charlie
> On 8/9/2022 3:19 PM, Warner Losh wrote:
> > Computing budgets were tiny: You had only so many $$$ for your runs and
> > if you made
> > too many, you'd run out of $$$ before you were done (more applicable as
> > a student than
> > as a professional post school though). Consequently your time was
> > plentiful and
> > computer time was scarce.
> --
> voice: +1.512.784.7526       e-mail: sauer at technologists.com
> fax: +1.512.346.5240         Web: https://technologists.com/sauer/
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