A Personal History of Computers
Born a half-generation after the computer pioneers, I knew most of them. This talk will sketch an early history of computers, emphasizing the personalities rather than the technology, and the parts I know from personal experience rather than uniform coverage.
NC native and Duke alumnus Fred Brooks is Kenan Professor, Emeritus in the Department of Computer Science at UNC-Chapel Hill, which he founded in 1964 and chaired for twenty years. Prior to coming to UNC, Dr. Brooks worked for nine years with IBM. He was an architect of the IBM Stretch supercomputer and the Harvest cryptanalytic engine. He then served as Corporate Project Manager for the IBM System/360 mainframes, including the development of the System/360 computer family hardware and then the Operating System/360 software. His most important technical decision was to change IBM’s byte size from 6 to 8 bits, enabling lower-case characters.
At UNC, Dr. Brooks has conducted research in computer architecture, software engineering, and interactive 3-D computer graphics (“virtual reality”). His best-known books are The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering (1975, 1995), Computer Architecture: Concepts and Evolution (with G.A. Blaauw, 1997), and The Design of Design (2010). Dr. Brooks has received the U.S. National Medal of Technology and the A.M. Turing Award of the ACM.
Fred has cultivated an active Christian presence in the UNC community. Since 1965, he has advised Focus, the graduate chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at UNC. He chairs the Board of the NC Study Center (“Battle House”).