by Anura Guruge
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IF it was but a coincidence, it was one heck of a one. Some might even call it spooky. This morning, around 12:50 am, I was rummaging around in the built-in cupboard at the bottom of my solid teak , carved in Chiang Mai [Thailand] in 1972 desk, when I stumbled upon the above sign.
Wow. I realized that I had received it EXACTLY 40 years ago!
Yep, I would have got that on August 28, 1974 — my 2nd day at IBM Hursley, the day I started my two weeks of orientation.
I was NOT looking for it. I knew I had it, but I hadn’t seen it in years. I was actually sorting out a pile of books and I found a stash of papers under the books and the sign was one of them.
The “Think” signs were very much a part of the IBM culture, which at least in those days bordered on a cult. Thomas J. Watson [1874 – 1956], the founder of IBM, came up with the “Think” logo in 1911. Amazingly there is now a Wikipedia entry just about the “THINK” moto. How cool.
Hence all new intakes getting a ‘Think’ sign, though by then, alas, IBM was already penny-pinching by only handing out paper signs. But, as you can see in one of the pictures, like all things IBM, bar the humans, it had an IBM Part Number, R20-4011-0. The last ‘0’ indicates that it had not been revised.
Thinking had, luckily, never been a problem for me. BUT I will readily admit that IBM’s emphasis, at least in the early 1970s, on the benefits of ‘thinking’ changed my life. Before I joined IBM I had already started a wonderful friendship with my brain. I was already well on my way getting my brain to carry on processing stuff while I slept, doing background processing and having ‘two-levels’ of processing. I really worked on this ‘thinking’ during my stint at IBM. I bought into the whole notion of “think” and I am very glad of it — and I thank IBM. I used to tell myself, ‘out loud’ (ok, maybe sotto voce), “TO THINK“. When I picked up the sign this morning it got me thinking. I realized, with mixed emotions, that I hadn’t told myself to ‘THINK’ in a long time. Bothered me. But, I understand. Much of what I have been doing this year has been on autopilot.
Thinking is good. To me, next to sex, it is the greatest of pleasures — and no, thinking about sex, just doesn’t cut it, at least for me. I love to think. And I think some of this can be attributed to the 1 cent paper sign. Yes, I kept it on my desk as I was supposed to do. I was, most of the time, a good IBMer — though during the Summer months I would come to work, work till about 10 am, leave my sports coat on the back of my chair, and then drive to Southampton to watch cricket till 6 pm. I would then get back, maybe work, on mandatory overtime, till 9:30 or 10 and then go home. But this wasn’t everyday and it was only during the Summer. Nobody ever said anything. I got my work done and more. I had been told very early on, and remember I was 21 at the time, that IBM only expected me to work 40% of my time on what I was supposed to do! I was told to do ‘my thing’ during the other 60%. By that they meant create things, do things, think. And I did. I wrote a number of programs, outside of my work brief, that became classics within the labs, one of them ‘NDSIO‘. NDS = New Display System — what would end up as being the world conquering 3274, 3276, 3278 and 3287 product line. IO = Input/Output. It was an utility that enabled you to EASILY write to or read from a 3270 device attached to an mainframe. It made product development and testing so much easier. It actually became the de facto tool we used for testing ‘NDS’ at Hursley and then in Kingston (U.S.A.). Nobody asked me to write it. I wrote it on my own initiative and volition. That was the beauty of IBM in the 70s. When I had it 80% done I showed it to my manager and my group etc. They immediately saw the worth and I was then told to finish it. So it was never the time spent at work, it was what you did with your time.
I still think that IBM should really should do more about preaching the joys of thinking.
My montage of pictures of my 1974 ‘Think’ sign.
Click to ENLARGE.
by Anura Guruge
>> Hursley’s John Fairclough … — Aug. 27, 2014.
>> Mainframe 50th — Apr. 7, 2014.
>> Gene Amdahl & I – Mar. 29, 2014.
>> IBM Hursley pictures – Mar. 16, 2014.
>> Malaysia flight 370: And ‘Poor’ IBM — Mar. 11, 2014.
++++ Search on “Hursley”, “IBM” & “mainframes” for other IBM (Hursley) related posts >>>>
About 5 or 6 years ago when I first heard that HP had overtaken IBM in terms of annual revenue I was perturbed and shocked. Just seems incongruous. In terms of the depth of product range, software offerings and customer presence IBM always appears to be head-and-shoulders above HP.
Then yesterday I happened to see on MarketWatch, that I pull up a few times a day to check headlines, that HP has now overtaken IBM in server sales! That was shocking. It is also very disturbing. I have not owned IBM stock in decades. IF I was an IBM investor I would now be very worried — to the point of dumping all my shares at once.
I am here talking as one who spent 20 years as an ‘IBM Watcher’ with a pretty impressive record of getting it right when it comes to IBM. Here, check out some of these, especially my old newspaper columns, here.
IBM, once again, appears to be going walkabouts — off the beaten track.
IBM is back to claiming that it is going to focus on software, services and ‘the cloud’ rather than on hardware.
Some of us have heard this all before. How many of YOU remember ‘SAA‘? Systems Application Architecture.
I can also mention ‘grid computing‘ and ‘autonomic computing‘.
IBM’s latest push with Cloud reminds me, alas, of the BILLIONS it spent — no squandered — on ATM, and here we are talking about ‘Asynchronous Transfer Mode‘.
Nways. Nbloodyways. What a joke? What a scandal? What downright incompetence?
Nbloodyways Switches (developed in Lagaude, France), which didn’t ‘compute’, was what precipitated IBM’s decline and then exit from networking. At one time had 70% of the corporate networking market and then within a decade was forced to abdicate to the likes of Cisco, HP, Juniper etc.
My fear, I see Nbloodyways writ large all over IBM’s cloud talks.
IBM is best with tangible, clearly definable things with Nbloodyways Switches, alas, but an exception.
As soon as it start dabbling in mushy stuff like the cloud it goes off the beaten path.
Yes, I am concerned. I am not an investor but I have a vested interest in IBM. Even when I would rant and rave about IBM screwing up, and I did that often, quite rightly, when they were going off the rails and out=of-the-business in networking, I would still claim that when cut I bled blue. The folks at Cisco used to laugh about that IBM. That deep down whatever IBM’s faults I will always be an IBMer.