Friday, November 18, 2022

Fred Brooks, RIP

Dag Spicer (Hacker News):

Legendary computer architect Fred Brooks passed away today. Brooks led the team creating the timeless IBM System/360 mainframe architecture as well as development of OS/360.

See also:

Jason Crawford:

His work on operating systems at IBM gave us the 8-bit byte.

Brooks was also the manager who approved Ted Codd’s PhD—which enabled him to invent the relational database.

John Carmack:

I have read The Mythical Man Month three times. Some of the wisdom really is timelessly applicable to creative human effort, but software development did escape much of Brooks’ pessimism with large scale open source component reuse.


Update (2022-12-01): Steven Bellovin (via John Gruber):

He was also a lead on a failed project, the IBM 8000 series. He tried to resign from IBM after it failed; Watson replied, “I just spent a billion dollars educating you; I’m not letting you go now!”

He then headed the project that designed and built the IBM S/360 series of mainframes. It was an audacious concept for the time—five different models with vastly different prices and performance characteristics, but all sharing (essentially) the same instruction set.


At Chapel Hill, he switched his attention to computer graphics and protein modeling. He’d acquired a surplus remote manipulator arm; the idea was that people could use it to “grab” atoms and move them, and feel the force feedback from the varying charge fields. From there, it was a fairly natural transition to some of the early work in VR.

See also: Slashdot.

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