MDST110 Electronic Coursebook for Students
Information Technology and Digital Media Studies
Prof. David Golumbia
University of Virginia
Fall 2004
MDST110 main pageMDST110 syllabus

5. The Rise of Mainframe Computing

Mon Sep 20, 2004

IBM was the major developer of the large-scale computers we now call mainframes, and which were essentially the only computers in use for much of the 1950s and 1960s. Many of the technologies taken for granted in today's computers were developed during this period, while others were not present and made early computers much more difficult to use than are contemporary ones. Especially important during the 1950s and 60s were the expansion of peripherals offered with computers, the development of core memory and integrated circuits, the creation of real-time computing, and the use of computers for systems of comprehensive tracking and control.

I. Computing in the 1950s

II. Electronics: Core Memory, Integrated Circuits and Microprocessors

III. IBM in the 1960s

IV. IBM's Competitors

V. The Beginnings of Real-Time


Study Questions

  1. How important are peripherals to computers today? Are peripherals "central" to the use and understanding of computers in general, or are they marginal (as the name implies)?
  2. How important is the notion of systematicity to the history of computing and in particular to IBM's role in that history? In what ways?
  3. In what ways is real-time computing important to the history of computing? In what other parts of culture does the idea of real-time occur?
  4. Can you imagine a computerized society without precise tracking, capture and control (as in the UPC)?

Reading for next class

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