I joined IBM Research in Yorktown in 1978.  I was an electrical engineer and one of the first problems I was given was modeling a novel concept for an X-Y touch panel.  I realized that the model is basically solving Laplace's equation in the plane.  I was not a programmer at the time, so I asked what was the recommended thing for that.  I was told APL, so I grabbed a manual and got to work.

Within a day or two I had a nice solver working and was getting useful results.

(Of course, solving Laplace in the plane by relaxation is the slowest possible way to get to the answer, but I didn't know much about numerical methods back in those days.)

The next week I got a visit from the same IT weenies who had bothered you.  They told me that in my first week on the job I had managed to be the biggest consumer of CPU cycles on the 370/168 and that I had to learn to program in PL/I because compiled was better than interpreted.  It took me several weeks to get it working, since PL/I was such a pain in the neck and I had to learn all sorts of stuff about how numbers were represented in the hardware.

Obviously my time was worth less than the computer's.


On Tue, Aug 9, 2022 at 4:43 PM Charles H Sauer (he/him) <> wrote:
Early on in my career at IBM Yorktown, ca. 1976, I was submitting many
long running simulation jobs to the 360/91 there. At one point, the head
of computer systems (I.T. if you will) wrote to the head of computer
sciences (my department) complaining that I had just spent $50K over
some short period, asking if this was justified. My management shrugged
it off, encouraged me to continue what I was doing. I might still have
the letter somewhere.

A couple of years later, while on the faculty at U.T. Austin, one of the
main budgetary items in research grant proposals was purchase of
mini-computers, assuming those were a more efficient use of funds than
paying for time at the campus computing center (then using CDC 6600 and



On 8/9/2022 3:19 PM, Warner Losh wrote:

> Computing budgets were tiny: You had only so many $$$ for your runs and
> if you made
> too many, you'd run out of $$$ before you were done (more applicable as
> a student than
> as a professional post school though). Consequently your time was
> plentiful and
> computer time was scarce.

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