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
10717 Cromwell Drive
Dallas, TX, 75229, USA
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