Christie's auction and other computer history events

From: Scott Stevens <>
Date: Sun Feb 20 09:08:10 2005

On Thu, 17 Feb 2005 22:41:08 -0700
James E Cosper <> wrote:

> William Donzelli Wrote:
> >A previous poster mention IBM being the driving force. I don't think
> >so. According to the MIT book, in the late 1950s, when IBM was not
> >yet the dominant figure in the computer business (in the US, anyway,
> >it was still a free for all until 1960 or so), they did
> >manage to really roll over everyone in Europe. Why did IBM gain this
> >dominance in Europe a few years before they gained it in the US? What
> >was the difference? That is perhaps my question.
> >
> I recently read a book about IBM's Involvement with Germany during
> IBM and the Holocaust - The Strategic Alliance between nazi Germany
> and America's most powerful corporation. By Edwin Black Copyright
> 2001 ISBN: 0-609-60799-5
> Basically it's saying that IBM had contracts with the US Gov for
> advanced computing equipment during the war.
> That they leased the same or similar equipment to Germany, and to each
> country that Germany took over, specifically for doing the Census,
> Banking, controlling industrial inventory and computing train
> schedules. (This equipment stayed in place after the war).
> That the combined need's for this equipment was on the order of 1000's
> of machines and a great deal of inovation was bought and paid for
> during the war.
> IBM was not concerned about the equipment being 'stolen' so much
> because all the punch cards were produced in the US and exported.
> (Reminds me of printer ink cartridges). "In the manufacture of cards,
> special machinery is needed. No one but an IBM affiliate can make IBM
> cards because in Germany the contracts contain a clause that the
> German customer cannot use cards except those of IBM manufacture...".
> I don't necessarily say that all the information is accurate, but
> it's a good read, and gives some insight into the IBM Business
> practices during the war.
> Another good book is The Puzzle Palace By James Bamford Copyright 1982
> ISBN: 0-14-00-6748-5 It covers the influence that the gov has had on
> computer and communications inovation.
> (Not trying to start or add fuel to a flame war).
> James.

Well, technically, all the IBM equipment from those years was 'data
processing' equipment, not computers. The data was processed (as most
here probably know) with card sorters. The database consisted of the
cards, shuffled around in various ways to produce sorted decks. The
fields to sort on were determined with wire jumpers in plugboards.
There wasn't a computer in sight in most of those systems.

It highlights the difference between 'computer science/software
engineering' and 'IT'. A difference not so often discerned these days,
though it gets me riled up when a recruiter or HR person when I am
looking for work trys to shoehorn me into IT because I'm experienced in
embedded controller hardware/firmware development.
Received on Sun Feb 20 2005 - 09:08:10 GMT

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