Gene Amdahl, the man responsible for the modern design of the mainframe computer, passed away on Tuesday, Nov. 10 in Palo Alto, Calif. at the age of 92.

While his cause of death has not been officially confirmed, his wife, Marian, stated that the former tech entrepreneur and computer engineer died of pneumonia in the nursing home in which he resided. Amdahl had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's five years ago and was undergoing treatment for the disease.

Born in 1922 in South Dakota, Amdahl attended a one-room school with no electricity, as reported by the New York Times, with encouragement from his father to pursue higher education. He then attended South Dakota State University and pursued a doctorate degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which he completed in 1952. At Wisconsin-Madison, Amdahl also designed his first computer, the WISC, which is considered the first digital computer in the state.

Amdahl began working at IBM in the early 1960s, and it was there that the computer scientist designed one of his biggest contributions to the field: a grouping of computer mainframes called the IBM System/360 series, which became the blueprint for comprehensive designs in the industry. The 360 series boasted a number of machines that processed at different levels of power and speed that operated on a universal computing language, compatible with both smaller and larger machines without undergoing software reprogramming of any kind.

The design proved to be timeless: some IBM mainframes continue to run on the System/360 series that Amdahl constructed.

The computer designer left IBM in 1970 to form his own entrepreneurial vision, the Amdahl Corporation, which he in turn abandoned in 1979 for a new venture, Trilogy Systems. Having established a pattern, Amdahl's successive corporations included Andor International, Commercial Data Servers and Massively Parallel Technologies. IBM became and remained one of Amdahl's largest competitors. 

The computer scientist was also the namesake for Amdahl's Law, which is used to project and estimate speed improvement with multiple processors.

Watch Amdahl interviewed in this 1984 news segment, featured in the video clip below.


Via: The New York Times

Photo: Marcin Wichary | Flickr

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