Introduction to the Collection

 The ButtonMan Collection is presented to each attendee for their 
 personal pleasure and appreciation of the history of computer buttons, 
 in honor of the  50th Anniversary of SHARE, the world's first computer 
 user's group by Herbert W. "Barry" Merrill, PhD  (The ButtonMan).

History of the Collection  by Barry Merrill   August, 2005 

The early buttons were created by individual system programmers who were
active attendees at SHARE (and to a lesser degree, GUIDE), and they were
created with a whimsical intent to convince IBM to provide better support,
to point out perceived defects, or to advertise a preference for particular
products or features.  They were created in small quantity, usually less
than 100 in the early years, out of the pocket of the creator, who only
wanted to recover his costs of production, and were distributed at SCIDS on
the first night of each SHARE.

SHARE was started in August of 1955 by employees of companies that had the
new IBM 704 on order from IBM, and who recognized that they would need to
share experiences to make these new digital computers work!
  In fact, the original IBM computer was hardware-only, with no operating
  system; SHARE worked on "SOS", The SHARE Operating System, until they
  convinced IBM that it must provide at least operating system software.
While I had first computed in 1959, and had used the SHARE Program Library
as early as 1964, my first meeting was SHARE XLII in Houston, in March,
1974, and at my first SCIDS, a burly George Greenacre from Union Carbide
wore a large black silk sash covered with buttons, and I realized that SHARE
was my kind of place!  I acquired a few buttons at that meeting, but at the
next SHARE, realized that all of the last meeting's buttons were on display
back in the attendee's cubicle, and none of those still-great ideas were
available at this meeting, so I began to wear my small collection to share
those past great ideas with the new SHARE attendees, eventually putting them
on a long white butcher's smock that weighted 27 pounds, and that made me
the most well-read person at each SHARE, especially on Thursday night at the
JES2 Sing-A-Long session!

When the 25th Anniversary of SHARE approached in 1980, I spent much of 79 and
80 soliciting old buttons, telephoning their creators, and building my
database of who, what, when, where, and especially why, each buttons had
been created, and with the excellent photographic skills of Aaron Eisenpress,
presented "The History of SHARE thru Buttons" at that August meeting; I spent
far more time on this research than I had spent on my doctoral dissertation!

Subsequently, attendees gave me buttons that were not in the collection, and
for this 50th SHARE Meeting, I completed the photography of the collection that
now contains 1222 buttons, updated the database entries on all that I could
find information on, and thanks to MP Welch, who found and implemented the
Dynamic-CD product, TheButtonMan Collection is delivered to you direct from CD.

Computer History of the Collector

a. Notre Dame - 1959 - WOW! from an IBM 610 digital computer.

I began my computing experience in September of 1959, as a Sophomore at the
University of Notre Dame's School of Electrical Engineering.  The EE Lab
project for one week was the calculation of the determinant of a 4x4 matrix.
  We were concurrently learning how to solve linear equations in our math
  course, wherein the math prof would show the answer as a 3x3 determinant
  divided by a 4x4 determinant was equal to 7.  Our Engineering profs made
  us carry out the very tedious arithmetic that was necessary to get that
  answer, to differentiate engineers from mathematicians.

As the ancient Lab Instructor finished his instructions for the week's lab,
he picked up a ditto'd sheet and said "I am required to read this notice.
The IBM corporation has donated a Model 610 dig-it-tall computer, located
in room 240, and students can sign up for hour-long blocks of time."  Slamming
down the notice, he said "those dig-it-tall things will never last, but, next
year, as Juniors, you can learn to use the Bendix G15 Analog Computer: that's
how real engineer's solve real problems with a computer."

I went to room 240, looked thru the peephole and saw a large gray box, a
table with typewriter, and what I assumed to be a senior, and opened the
door to enter.  As the door unhinged, so did the student, shouting "Shut
that G.D. door!" as he strode across the room to the door, flailing his arms.
As he stepped out into the hall, he shouted "Didn't you read the damn
sign?", and then discovered his sign had fallen face down on the floor.
Calming, he informed me that you must knock to get the operator's attention,
so he could put the machine in "QUIESCE/STOP" (which took 5-10 seconds),
and only then was it safe shuffle in, slowly.  The vacuum tube machine was
so heat sensitive, in its air conditioned room, that the air currents when
the door was opened caused computation to fail, requiring a program restart.

He pointed me to the IBM manuals and I began at page one.  Several hours
later, I had learned to punch paper tape and print them on the Selectric and
decided to calculate the determinate on my new toy.  By Saturday, I had
punched my program, printed it, and was now ready to run my first computer
program.  As I watched the paper tape whir thru the reader, the addresses
flickered on the nixie tubes; I crossed my arms and thought "Wow, it is
1959, I am a sophomore in college and am running a real program on a digital
computer".  The paper tape came to the end, the printer came alive, and I
received my first computer output, four characters: WOW!  It took until
Sunday to find the senior, who found that I had sort of missed the
difference between "program" and "data", that the first punch in the tape
was a control character that put the 610 in a scan-the-paper-tape mode, in
the fifth-from-end position of the tape there was a control character to
print the tape as machine instructions, and what had been printed were the
code letters for the last four program instructions: W=Carriage Return,
O=Line Feed, W= Carriage Return, !=Print Accumulator!  (Two Carriage Returns
were always used to ensure that the very slow print head was all the way
left before printing started on the next line.)

I did finally get the determinant computed, and submitted the first EE
lab problem that used a digital computer at Notre Dame, but I did
nothing further with computers while there.  I dropped out of Notre Dame
in 1962, having completed only 6 semesters out of 8, joined the Navy,
was in the Cuban blockade on a surface ship,
then on a Diesel submarine in the Atlantic, and then won a Navy scholarship
that sent me back to college in EE at Purdue University in 1964.

b. Purdue, 1964-1967 - IBM 7090/7094 and IBM 360/44.

At Purdue, I took a one-hour Fortran II course, using a 7090/7094 and was
hooked.  I worked on Linear Programs to model power grids, got a job in the
Tab department wiring plug boards for sorters, collators and printers,
implemented the Fast Fourier Transform from the original Cooley-Tukey paper,
worked for the Laboratory for Agricultural Remote Sensing (pattern
recognition of crops from spectral data which led to the Earth Resource
Technology Satellite), built the ground-truth data for LARS agronomists, and
set fire to our 360/44 Serial #2 (twice!) with a tight loop in the floating
point divide unit that lacked a heat sink.  I showed one PhD candidate in
Psychology how pattern recognition and vector distance could be used at the
key tool in his dissertation to cluster and separate petroleum engineers that
found oil from those that did not, and coded Fortran programs to manipulate
data to invoke the BIMD statistical subroutines for another PhD candidate.
I finished my BSEE and MSEE in August, 1967, but the Navy needed nuclear
submarine drivers, not programmers, so again I set computing aside for a
second masters in Nuclear Propulsion and served in USS GATO SSN-615, in the
Atlantic and the Barents Sea (see the book "Blind Man's Bluff") thru '69,
was assigned to shore duty running the airline to Guantanamo Bay Cuba, where
I taught calculus and ran the overseas extension for Old Dominion
University, and set world records in ham radio contests as KG4CS 1970-1972.

c. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, 1972-1976.

Leaving the Navy in 1972, my Psychologist friend, now working at State
Farm Automobile Insurance in Bloomington, IL, suggested that I might
find a home there.  Dave Vitek had gone to the Boole and Babbage User
Group (BBUG, the predecessor of CMG) and decided that maybe, instead of
trusting the IBM salesman as your capacity planner, State Farm could
measure its own computers, and had funded a ten-person Measurement Unit
for a feasibility study.  Steve Cullen had drafted an excellent attack
plan to evaluate tools, and in short order we had Kommand/PACES for
accounting, Software Monitors (SYSTEM LEAP and PROGRAM LEAP), Hardware
Monitors (TESDATA XRAY), and Simulation (SAM).  Because Kommand was only
for billing, Denny Maguire had started to write PL/1 programs to extract
fields from SMF records, and I had revived an old Plot subroutine from
LARS days, when I found this brief announcement in Datamation:
   The Institute of Statistics at North Carolina State University
   announces the availability of the Statistical Analysis System, a
   package of 100,000 lines, one third each in Fortran, PL/1 and
   Assembler, that does printing, analysis and plotting of data.

I wrote for information, and got a typical university document, with
some pages dittoed, some pages typed, some printed, each on paper of a
different color, but immediately saw the power and simplicity of the
INPUT statement for SMF data.  However, in the list of supported data
formats, there was no reference to Packed Decimal.  You only need to get
seven bytes into an SMF record to encounter a Packed Decimal field, so I
called the Institute and asked Tony Barr, the author of the SAS compiler
about support.  "Well, we haven't got around to documenting it yet, but
if you type in PD4. it will work jest fine" he said, so I convinced
State Farm to risk the 1972 purchase price of $100 for the SAS package.

Starting in 1964, Tony Barr and Dr. Jim Goodnight had collaborated to
develop an ANOVA routine for the Department of Agriculture.  Tony had
been an IBM developer of the data base for the cold war's Distant Early
Warning (DEW line) radar system, and Jim was a well-known statistician.
Both recognized the weakness of the existing stat packages: they were
only subroutines that had to be invoked by other programs that had to
prepare and manage the data to be analyzed.  By creating a language, a
database, and the statistics, the Statistical Analysis System expanded
well beyond the original ANOVA routine and had been tested at several
Agricultural Experimental Stations and other universities, but the 1972
announcement was the first public release of the Statistical Analysis
System, and in October, 1972, State Farm was the first customer to
purchase and install the SAS package from NCSU's Statistics Department.

Within days of receipt of SAS, I was extracting CPU time and PROGRAM name
and K-Core-Hours to produce reports on resource consumption direct from SMF
records, and, because SAS stores in floating point, we found that Kommand
lost hours of CPU time thru truncation.  Presentations on the use of SAS
software and on the "Performance Data Base", the PDB, that I created, were
given to the Bloomington and Chicago chapters of the ACM and DPMA; the SAS
data base was mentioned in my paper at the SAM User's Group on the use of
the SAS data base to create simulation input for the SAM - System Analysis
Machine - directly from actual SMF data, presented at the 1973 SSCS
(Symposium on the Simulation of Computer Systems) at the National Bureau of
Standards, and also at a BOF session at the Seventh Annual Interface
Symposium at Iowa State.  Many XRAY hardware monitor users became aware of
State Farm's PDB through the Midwest TESDATA Users Group, which held its
inaugural meeting in 1973 at State Farm.  These presentations were only half
technical; we also had to convince attendees that staffing of this new
measurement concept was cost justified by the real dollar savings.  John
Chapman had used an XRAY at Standard Oil and after coming to Bloomington to
see what we were doing, invited me to join SHARE's Computer Measurement and
Evaluation (CME) project, and the PDB was described in a closed session of
the CME project at SHARE 42 in Houston in March of 1974.  The first open
session presentation on the use of the SAS System to process SMF data was
before to an audience of over half of the attendees at the Chicago SHARE
XLIII meeting in August, 1974.

That session was split with an IBM presentation on their new Statistics
Gathering Package, an FDP that selected a few fields from a few SMF
records.  IBM spoke first, then I showed what we had done with SAS at
State Farm.  One attendee stood and asked the IBM author of SGP, Bill
Tetzlaff, "Now that you have seen SAS, is there any reason why you would
still recommend your SGP product?"  Several hundred SHARE sites acquired
SAS that fall as a result of this SHARE session!

d. Sun Oil Company, 1976-1984.

In 1974, SAS added File 13, SAS.MERRILL, to their distribution tape with
code examples for reading SMF data.  In 1976, I completed my course work at
the University of Illinois (65 miles each way on a CB-500 Honda), and when
State Farm decided to delay migrate to the new MVS operating system, I left
for Dallas and Sun Oil company, where I brought my research programs from
Illinois and demonstrated that the analysis of SMF with SAS was valid for VS2
as well.  In 1979 I wrote my dissertation, "A Comprehensive Approach to the
Measurement of Large Scale Computer Systems" and received my PhD in EE from
U of I.  In 1979, Jane Helwig, director of publications at SAS Institute
(which had become an independent company in 1975, marketing "the SAS
System" instead of the "Statistical Analysis System") said users wanted
more than the sample programs in File 13, and that SAS would edit and
publish a book with sample SAS code that showed how to measure
computers, so we worked together on what was to be titled "The Analysis
of SMF and RMF Data Using the SAS System".  Just before printing, Jane
called to say that no one liked the name, and asked if my ego could
handle the title change to "Merrill's Guide to Computer Performance
Evaluation using the SAS System", which became a 395 page blue book,
sold by SAS with a tape of sample programs for $395.  By 1983, MVS/XA
loomed with radical changes to SMF data, and many of the book's users
were asking for a real software product, so in 1984, SAS published
"Merrill's Expanded Guide to Computer Performance Evaluation Using the
SAS System", an 835 page red book ($50), and SAS distributed the new MXG
Software tape ($700) that was shipped with the then optional Merrill
Consultant's "Support Subscription" agreement ($500 annually), and I
left Sun Oil.  Judy, whom I had met in the 1980 election line, and who
had taught Business College in Richmond, VA, in the '60s, and had been
an executive with a Dallas apparel firm when we met, had proposed that
if I would write and support the software, that she would design and run
the business, and she does, and I do.  In 1987, SAS Institute published
the 630 page red book "Merrill's Expanded Guide Supplement" and in 1991,
Merrill Consultants replaced the old Support Subscription with a License
Agreement and took over all distribution of MXG Software and MXG Books.
Now, all documentation is contained in the MXG Source Library, as all of
MXG Software has always been, and always will be, source code forever.

MXG Software has been installed at over 6,600 data centers in all states
and 57 countries (although there are only about 2,500 licenses now, due
to data center consolidations), and over 15,000 books have been sold.

The ButtonMan Collection is copyright (c) 1974-2005
Herbert W. "Barry" Merrill, PhD
dba Merrill Consultants
MXG Software
10717 Cromwell Drive
Dallas, TX, 75229, USA
214 351 1966