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Icons of Progress

System 360

From Computers to Computer Systems
  • T. Vincent Learson 

    T. Vincent Learson black and white portrait
    “In a management sense, he was certainly the father of the 360,” remarked Fred Brooks, leading computer scientist of the IBM® System/360 development team.

    Son of a sea captain and Boston native, T. Vincent Learson spent his entire 38-year career at IBM, ultimately becoming chairman and CEO from June 1971 through January 1973. The mark Vin Learson left on IBM is undeniable and indelible, with perhaps his most notable achievement being his early and persistent support of the System/360 project. Within the management ranks of IBM, it was Learson who pushed for the new family of computers and peripherals that would make it easier and more effective for IBM customers to tap into the power of modern computer technology. An avid sailor and accomplished yachtsman, Learson served as Ambassador at Large and chief American delegate for the Law of the Sea Conference, an international effort to establish universal maritime rules ranging from fishing rights to pollution.

  • Gene Amdahl 

    Gene Amdahl black and white portrait
    Amdahl’s Law states: “If x of a program is inherently sequential, the maximum attainable speedup is 1/x.”

    Shorty after building a computer from scratch for the Electrical Engineering Department at the University of Wisconsin, Gene Amdahl submitted his doctoral thesis in the summer of 1951 to the Physics Department—his actual field of focus. The thesis was so sophisticated that his reviewers felt unqualified to comment and passed it along to outside experts for proper evaluation. Amdahl joined IBM in 1952 and worked on replicating the character recognition function of a human brain. He went on to become the chief architect of the IBM 704, IBM’s first commercial computer featuring floating-point hardware and indexing, and the manager of architecture for the IBM System/360 family of mainframe computers. Named an IBM Fellow in 1969, he became director of IBM’s Advanced Computing Systems (ACS) Laboratory. In 1991, The Times of London named him one of the “1000 Makers of the 20th Century,” and Computerworld called him one of the 25 people that “changed the world.”

  • Frederick P. Brooks Jr. 

    Frederick P. Brooks, Jr black and white portrait
    Brooks is widely known for his seminal software engineering book “The Mythical Man-Month”, in which he posits, “Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.”

    Equipped with a Ph.D. from Howard Aiken’s pioneering computer science program at Harvard University, Brooks was recruited by IBM in 1956 where, early in his career, he helped design the influential IBM Stretch supercomputer. In 1961, Brooks was asked to lead the search for a single family of general-purpose systems to serve all customers. The team that Brooks assembled went on to develop the System/360, one of the most important technological developments of the 20th century. After serving as project manager for System/360, Brooks took over the responsibility for the development of the system family’s critical operating system, IBM OS/360. It was during this time that Brooks coined the term “computer architecture.” In 1985, along with his colleagues Erich Block and B.O. Evans, Brooks received the first-ever National Medal of Technology for work on the System/360.

  • Erich Bloch 

    Erich Bloch black and white portrait
    In 1984, then Chairman of the Board remarked that Bloch’s “commitment to the enhancement of technical vitality programs will help ensure that IBM people remain on the leading edge of this industry.”

    German-born Erich Bloch joined IBM in 1952 as an engineer in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., where he quickly became engineering manager of the IBM Stretch supercomputer program. In 1962, Bloch headed the development of the Solid Logic Technology program, which equipped IBM with the indispensible microelectronic technology for its System/360 computer. Bloch was awarded the 1985 National Medal of Technology and the IEEE Founders Medal in 1990. After 32 years of service to IBM, Bloch retired to become the director of the National Science Foundation in Washington, D.C., where he staunchly and successfully advocated for science and engineering education. President Ronald Reagan honored Bloch with the National Medal of Technology in 1985 in recognition of his work on the System/360.

  • Dr. Robert “B.O.” Evans 

    B.O. Evans has been credited by many for truly pioneering the computer industry with his work in orchestrating the System/360.

    Born and raised in rural Nebraska, Bob O. Evans joined IBM in 1951 as a junior engineer in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., where he took part in the development of IBM’s first large-scale computers. After excelling on a number of top-secret projects for the National Security Agency (NSA) and US Navy, Evans was promoted to vice president of development for the Data Systems Division—which included overall management responsibility for the development of IBM’s historic System/360. Evans went on to become consultant to the Premier of the Republic of China, fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and recipient of the first-ever National Medal of Technology in 1985.

  • John Haanstra 

    John Haanstra black and white portrait

    John W. Haanstra was chairman of the influential SPREAD committee and president of General Products Division just prior to launch. Later, Vin Learson put Haanstra and three other trusted senior engineering managers in charge of ensuring smooth operations of the System/360 at various lab and plant locations. Haanstra was dispatched to manage operations in Boulder, Colorado, and later San Jose, California. Together he and his three co-operations managers became known as the “Four Horsemen” of the System/360.

  • Henry E. Cooley 

    One of Vin Learson’s trusted “Four Horsemen” of the System/360, Henry E. (Hank) Cooley gave up his position as director of processor storage development of the Systems Development Division to manage operations in Poughkeepsie and Kingston, New York.

  • Clarence E. Frizzell 

    Clarence E. Frizzell color portrait

    Clarence E. Frizzell temporarily gave up his role as president of IBM’s Systems Manufacturing Division to manage operations at Endicott and Rochester, New York, carrying out his assignment as one of the “Four Horsemen” of the System/360.

  • John W. Gibson 

    A trusted colleague of Vin Learson, chief operations manager of the project, John Gibson became one of the “Four Horsemen” of the System/360, and was assigned to manage project-wide components manufacturing. Prior to his work on the project, Gibson was an IBM vice president who had been the first president of the Components Division.

  • Donald T. Spaulding 

    Donald T. Spaulding black and white portrait

    Donald T. Spaulding was Vin Learson’s chief of staff and key advisor in the seminal years leading up to the announcement of the System/360. Many credit him with setting both the technical and political wheels in motion toward the system’s release.