November 14, 2015: Gene Amdahl, the 'father' of the IBM System/360 -- arguably the most widely used mainframe computer in the world -- has passed away. He died of pneumonia and Alzheimer's disease on November 10, in a nursing home in Palo Alto California, at the age of 92.
Coincidentally, it is 50 years ago that the first machine in the System 360 family of computers was first shipped by IBM. It was the Model 30, and could perform up to 34,500 instructions per second, with memory from 8 to 64 KB. System /360 was the biggest seller for IBM and continued to be delivered till about1978, though System/370 had made its appearence in 1970.
Dr Amdahl was the Chief Architect of System/ 360.
The New York Times in its obituary story quotes Michael J. Flynn, a computer scientist at Stanford University and former colleague of Dr. Amdahl’s at IBM: "(The 360 series) set the design philosophy for computers for the next 50 years, and to this day it’s still out there, which is incredible....This same instruction set is still bringing in billions of dollars for IBM.” IBM’s current mainframes can still run some System/360 applications.
In 1970, Dr Amdahl left IBM to build his own company to take on IBM in mainframes. With funding from Fujitsu, he formed the Amdahl Corporation to build computers compatible with IBM's System/370, but cheaper and faster. He cannily named it the 470 series and shipped the first machine, in 1975. By 1979, Amdahl had grabbed 22 percent of the mainframe market. The company was bought out by Fujitsu in 1997.
Dr Amdahl is also known for Amdahl's law, which is used to find the maximum expected improvement to an overall system when only part of the system is improved. It is often used in parallel computing to predict the theoretical maximum speed- up using multiple processors.
Dr. Amdahl tasted failure in his next venture -- Trilogy Systems, which he started after leaving Amdahl in 1979, to build an IC that would allow mainframe manufacturers to build computers at lower costs. It never happened.
But till today, his reputation as one of the world' s greatest computer architect remains undiminished. IndiaTechOnline salutes the memory of Gene Amdahl, Bhishma Pitamah of the mainframe computer.