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Uploaded on Oct 2, 2014
Recorded: March 10, 1983
Gene Amdahl opens his talk describing how he entered into the computing industry, first as a doctoral student at the University of Wisconsin as a theoretical physics major and then on a project he started in 1949 that focused on the forces between nuclear particles. After completing the project with two other graduate students, with only the aid of a 10-digit desktop calculator and a slide rule, Amdahl deemed that there had to be a better method to make these types of calculations. After a trip to the US Army’s Aberdeen Proving Grounds and getting glimpses of ENIAC and EDVAC computers, he describes returning to Wisconsin in the fall of 1950 and changing his thesis to one proposing a design for an electronic computer, which became known as WISC—the Wisconsin Integrally Synchronized Computer. Because most computer designs at that time were classified or proprietary, WISC was a unique homegrown effort and was in operation from 1954 to 1959. Amdahl describes, in detail, its technical specifications. Amdahl later describes his employment at IBM starting in 1952 and his research and computer design roles, specifically in the planning and development of IBM’s 704, 709, 7030, and System/360 computer systems. He then discusses the founding of the Amdahl Corporation in 1970 and the Amdahl 470V/6 mainframe computer built to compete directly with IBM. Amdahl closes his lecture discussing his retirement from Amdahl Corporation and a new project—Trilogy—that he was working on with his son.