Computer Pioneer Gene Amdahl Dies
Written by Historian   
Thursday, 12 November 2015

Gene Amdahl, the computer architect who designed the IBM System/360 and the first LSI-based mainframe, has died at the age of 92.

16november 1

Gene Amdahl, 
16 November 1922 - 10 November 2015


Gene Amdahl was a physicist who got into computers because he wanted to work out something complicated. In 1950 he was asked by one of his professors to calculate whether the nuclear strong force was really enough to hold together a nucleus. For thirty days Amdahl slaved over a sliderule and a mechanical desk calculator to provide only two more significant digits to the solution.

After graduating with a clutch of degrees from South Dakota State University and the University of Wisconsin, Amdahl joined IBM in 1952 where as chief architect of the IBM 704 scientific mainframe computer, his engineering decisions helped sell many more of the machines than IBM had expected. He left IBM in 1956, but rejoined in 1960 when he was appointed chief architect of the highly popular System/360 series of mainframe computers.

After leaving IBM for a second time, Amdahl founded his own, eponymously named company in 1970. The key to his success with this venture was the use of Large Scale Integration (LSI) well before other companies realised the potential of the technology. In late 1961 Amdahl announced the first LSI-based mainframe, the 470 V/6. The use of LSI chips had reduced its size to a quarter of equivalent machines and it was three times more powerful than the IBM model at the same price.

Amdahl was named an IBM Fellow in 1965 and became a member of the National Academy of Engineering in 1967. In 1983, Amdahl he was awarded the Harry H. Goode Memorial Award by the IEEE Computer Society:

 "in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the design, applications and manufacture of large-scale high-performance computers"

In 1998, he was made a Fellow  of the Computer History Museum:

 "for his fundamental work in computer architecture and design, project management, and leadership."



Discover Amdahl's story and the landmark machines he helped design in I Programmer's history article about him.


More Information

Gene Amdahl - Wikipedia

Gene Amdahl - Computer History Museum Hall of Fellows

Related Articles

Gene Amdahl


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Last Updated ( Thursday, 12 November 2015 )