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1978: System/38 Technical Developments

 

IBM announced the Pacific project to the world as the IBM System/38, a name was chosen to suggest continuity of the new system with the System/32 and System/34 computers that had proceeded it out of the Rochester laboratory. However, continuity was purely in the minds of the marketeers. The new system, like its predecessors, was targeted at small businesses, but it bore no relationship to the earlier systems either architecturally or in its potential for growth.

Simply announcing the System/38 and leaving it in the hands of marketing just wasn't enough. In many ways, it was a technical tour de force that needed to be bragged about. Somehow, the idea developed of writing a book of papers about various aspects of the system, authored by key technical people. Twenty-nine short papers were written, including one I wrote on the Message Handler. These were published in 1978, as IBM System/38 Technical Developments.

As far as I knew, the book had gone to the printers, but I received a surprise phone call one evening from Glenn Henry, the driving force behind the whole project. At the time, he was only a distant figure in my management chain, but I later learned that it was his will and drive that had kept

alive when the infamous had failed. On the credenza behind his desk, Glen had an almost full scale plywood model of a guillotine. This was very intimidating to everyone who visited him. He said it was a reminder to everyone of the cost of failure. In more than three years of working on Pacific, I had hardly gotten to say more than "Hello" to Glenn, and here he was calling me at home.

"Rich," he said. "I was wondering if there should be any other authors listed with you on the Message Handler paper."

"I'm the one who wrote the paper." I replied.

"Yes, I know that, but other people also worked on the Message Handler component."

"That's true." I said. At various times, close to a dozen people had worked on it. "Are you suggesting that all those names should be listed as authors?"

"No, of course not, but maybe at least Lee Laske should be listed since he was the programming team leader."

I thought about what he said. Lee had worked long and hard on the component, but I had done all of the design work and I was the one who had fought all of the tough political battles for it. It was my baby, damn it.

"No, I don't think so." I answered, as calmly as I could.

"OK, it's your call." Glenn said and hung up.

I was very disturbed by the whole thing. It wasn't until a year later, when I failed to receive any of the awards that were passed out, that I realized I had sealed my own fate in that one phone call. The very fact that Glenn had called should have been a sufficient clue. I had failed at what counted the most in IBM. Instead of being a team player and sharing the credit, I had asserted my claim as the father of the Message Handler. But if I was the father of the Message Handler, Lee was certainly its mother.

However, I did learn my lesson. In latter years, when witting papers or applying for patents I included the names of everyone who had made any contribution to the effort being documented.



IBM System/38 Technical Developments, 1978, IBM Corporation, ISBN 0-033186-00-2.

1978: Les dévelopements technologiques du Système/38

 

Désolé, pas encore traduit.