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Emerson W. Pugh

An internationally recognized leader in magnetics and computer memory technologies, Emerson W. Pugh is a member of the research staff at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights and author of the widely used text, Principles of Electricity and Magnetism.

Titles by This Author

Shaping an Industry and Its Technology

No company of the twentieth century achieved greater success and engendered more admiration, respect, envy, fear, and hatred than IBM. Building IBM tells the story of that company—how it was formed, how it grew, and how it shaped and dominated the information processing industry. Emerson Pugh presents substantial new material about the company in the period before 1945 as well as a new interpretation of the postwar era.

Granted unrestricted access to IBM's archival records and with no constraints on the way he chose to treat the information they contained, Pugh dispels many widely held myths about IBM and its leaders and provides new insights on the origins and development of the computer industry.

Pugh begins the story with Herman Hollerith's invention of punched-card machines used for tabulating the U.S. Census of 1890, showing how Hollerith's inventions and the business he established provided the primary basis for IBM. He tells why Hollerith merged his company in 1911 with two other companies to create the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company, which changed its name in 1924 to International Business Machines. Thomas J. Watson, who was hired in 1914 to manage the merged companies, exhibited remarkable technological insight and leadership—in addition to his widely heralded salesmanship—to build Hollerith's business into a virtual monopoly of the rapidly growing punched-card equipment business.

The fascinating inside story of the transfer of authority from the senior Watson to his older son, Thomas J. Watson Jr., and the company's rapid domination of the computer industry occupy the latter half of the book. In two final chapters, Pugh examines conditions and events of the 1970s and 1980s and identifies the underlying causes of the severe problems IBM experienced in the 1990s.

No new product offering has had greater impact on the computer industry than the IBM System/360. IBM's 360 and Early 370 Systems describes the creation of this remarkable system and the developments it spawned, including its successor, System/370. The authors tell how System/360's widely-copied architecture came into being and how IBM failed in an effort to replace it ten years later with a bold development effort called FS, the Future System. Along the way they detail the development of many computer innovations still in use, among them semiconductor memories, the cache, floppy disks, and Winchester disk files. They conclude by looking at issues involved in managing research and development and striving for product leadership.

While numerous anecdotal and fragmentary accounts of System/360 and System/370 development exist, this is the first comprehensive account, a result of research into IBM records, published reports, and interviews with over a hundred participants. Covering the period from about 1960 to 1975, it highlights such important topics as the gamble on hybrid circuits, conception and achievement of a unified product line, memory and storage developments, software support, unique problems at the high end of the line, monolithic integrated circuit developments, and the trend toward terminal-oriented systems.

System/360 was developed during the transition from discrete transistors to integrated circuits at the crucial time when the major source of IBM's revenue was changed from punched-card equipment to electronic computer systems. As the authors point out, the key to the system's success was compatibility among its many models. So important was this to customers that System/370 and its successors have remained compatible with System/360. Many companies in fact chose to develop and market their own 360-370 compatible systems. System/360 also spawned an entire industry dedicated to making plug-compatible products for attachment to it.

A Technical History

In describing the technical experiences of one company from the beginning of the computer era, this book unfolds the challenges that IBM's research and development laboratories faced, the technological paths they chose, and how these choices affected the company and the computer industry. It chronicles the transformation of IBM into a computer company in a remarkably few years, discussing projects that ended in frustration as well as the more successful ones, and providing a sense of the atmosphere, the people, and the decision-making processes involved during the company's rapid technological transformation.

IBM's Early Computers is a unique contribution to the modern history of computers. It focuses on engineering alternatives rather than business and general management considerations and reveals the significance of imaginative solutions to problems in design and technology, from initial experiments with electronics in digital machines to the threshold of the System 360 era. This fair and balanced account of IBM's role in shaping today's electronic revolution identifies the individuals (both inside and outside the company) whose pioneering work influenced developments at IBM.

The book's fourteen chapters briefly survey the card machine era and then cover electronic calculation, the magnetic drum calculator, the Defense Calculator and other first-generation products, ferrite core memories, magnetic tape, and disk storage development, programming, transistors, "Project Stretch" (which involved disappointments but led to one of IBM's greatest successes) high-speed printers, research, and new-product-line considerations.

IBM's Early Computers is included in the History of Computing Series, edited by I. Bernard Cohen and William Aspray.