Musing on Moore’s Law

[Originally written in January, 2010, a few weeks before my management played their ‘trump card’ by changing the pension rules and elbowing out a significant percentage of their intellectual property]

I woke up in the small hours thinking about Moore’s Law – as you do.

There are just 5 weeks and 3 days left before Treescaper bails out of the IT industry after 34 years, possibly permanently – the jury’s still out on that one. Back in 1975, we wrote computer programs with pencils on ‘keypunch forms’ – 80 column line by 80 column line – then sent them through the internal mail to the ‘keypunch girls’ who transcribed them onto punched cards and sent them back – with luck the same day. Coffee was drunk, newspapers were read, telexes were answered and eventually the deck of 80 column cards would arrive, bundled in the original coding sheets with elastic bands. We’d read them through, single out the typos, take some blank cards to the 0129 keypunch machine and make corrections. When we were happy with the deck, we’d place it in the basket for collection by the DP courier who’d run it over to the machine room to be run. The massive watercooled IBM 360 series model 70 would eventually load, process and churn out the resulting listing on a fraction of the processing power of the tiny netbook I’m using to write this blog entry.

A few cycles of the process would eventually result in a ‘clean compile’ and testing could begin at the same leisurely, almost geological pace.

That antique process and hardware enabled a team of less than a couple of hundred folk in a temporary building in Havant run the entire administration, manufacturing and support systems for the IBM World Trade Corporation. The company was truly global, the systems all multicultural with specialist components built by distributed teams. The Argentine ‘Billing 370’ team, for example, were the hyperinflation experts who provided the interlocked pricing and billing support for fellow suffering countries like Israel.

The 37 hour week ruled back then, the weekend was sacred, and a hell of a lot of fun was had by all. The clubhouse had a bar, the local pubs did good business at lunchtime (which actually existed) and the company’s business boomed.

In 5 weeks and 3 days time, the last of that experience will leave the building. In that 34 years, thanks to Moore’s Law, the bloated layers of operating software and a ragbag of acquired and rebranded application software , we leave the company far less efficient than the one we joined.

Never mind… India holds the answer to all our problems. (I shall now extract my tongue from my cheek and turn in for the night)

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