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IBM at the Crossroads: Employees Talk

In the Shadow of Layoffs
6/23/2014 08:40 AM EDT
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boblespam
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CEO
Goldfish
boblespam   6/23/2014 11:24:35 AM
A goldfish in water detoxification tanks ?! Niiiice !

sixscrews
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Manager
Punch cards
sixscrews   6/25/2014 11:01:11 PM
IBM made some really smashing punch card machines back in the '60s and '70s - I used a lot of them and carried boxes of punch cards around the UW-Madison campus for years.  Drew admirers like crazy - "Wow, can I touch your punch cards?" they would say.  But I neve let them.  It was a matter of ethics - or something. Why not revive that business?  

What they need is a really cool advert campaign, showing highly trendoid types using punch cards to do things nobody though punch cards could be used for - I leave it up to the marketoids to figure this part out - then they could launch a line of punch card machines for the home, the car, the kitchen, the baby's room, the busy business person on the go, all using punch cards to make life bigger, better, faster and stronger.

Can't miss.

Sheepdoll
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Re: Punch cards
Sheepdoll   6/26/2014 1:03:25 AM
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If only I had saved all my backups on punched cards and paper tape.  Then it would still be in a readable format.  I dumped the 9 track mag tapes after 30 years as there was probably not much usable data, even if one could find a reader. 

Of course without a 9 or even a 7 track tape drive, then how else would someone know in a Hollywood movie if the box with lights on it was a christmas ornament or a computer.

Perhaps they should return to 9 track tapes, or at least something that spins like they did. So we know the computer is working at it's full AI potential.

 

 

David Ashton
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Re: Punch cards
David Ashton   6/26/2014 2:10:01 AM
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@Sheepdoll....even if you could find a reader, the programs would probably be in a language or need a machine that is no longer available.  But a stack of punched cards or a reel of tape would look cool on your bookshelf.   And the "tape drives" in old movies were impressive.....

sixscrews
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Re: Punch cards
sixscrews   6/26/2014 2:35:24 AM
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My punch cards contained a program to do FFTs on data I had gathered from machine tools using a Nicolet digital 'scope and a set of cutting tools equipped with strain gauges.  Most of the punch cards were data translated from paper tape which was in turn translated from the output of the Nicolet 'scope data.  Boxes and boxes of data, carefully guarded from the Wisconsin summer humidity and winter dryness, sometimes making the card reader more of a card shredder.  Running one of those jobs for the first time was often a matter of extreme anxiety - if the run jammed days of work would turn into bits of MACC cards stuffed into a plastic bag and returned with an annoyed note about my care of the cards - no reference to the now-destroyed data.

This was the beginning of the system that looked at cutting tool frequency profiles and determined when it was time to replace the tool - most useful to industry and a standard feature on machining centers today.

Now we just pick it up from our wireless devices and send it elsewhere - making a copy of a copy of a copy and backing it up each time.

Time passes - I still have some of those cards but they are more useful as bookmarks than repositories of data.

Now, if we could make them into a trendoid fashion statement - paper clothes stitched from punch cards, perhaps?

Sheepdoll
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Re: Punch cards
Sheepdoll   6/26/2014 2:58:48 AM
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@David Ashton - need a machine that is no longer available.

Retro computing is one of my hobbies, If I ever get a working 3d printer I am going to print a Babbage engine.  The Edsac plans were re-discovered, so chances are the old stuff may be more viable than something created 10 minutes ago.



The maddening thing is that I did transfer the reader program for the tapes to floppy disk, which then got transfered to mac, and is still on my current computer.  So what that the reader was written in Fortran.  The actual code was HP basic [I know this is an IBM thread, but the reader could in theory have run on a 360/138, which my punched cards are from. The other Irony is that after I dumped the tapes HP made the 2100 series codes available and someone wrote an online emulator for the 2000 series timeshare system which are still online.  and READY]  Now if only Kodak would follow the lead of IBM and HP by placing some of there obsolete IP in the public (Linux) domain, the world would be a better place.

I have a handful of punched cards which were used as bookmarks.  Just looked at them.  There is nothing to tell that they are 35 years old. Not sure what the paper was, these were always on a manila sort of paper.  (probably not true manila which is hemp.)  Most paper has an average life of 100 years.  The cards that survive are going to be around for a long time.

I did keep the tapes, in the closet (dark- even temperature) then in the storage unit. (The one that was geo mapped to the true center of the silicon valley.) Curiously when I emptied the storage unit, the box of tapes was moved aside when I was donating the furniture to the Salvation Army. (Silicon valley branch on Homestead.)  They offered to take them which surprised me so I let them have the tapes.  [The computer history musem would not take the tapes.  (the CHM did take my original inside, 1984 Macintosh, packaging which did survive in the same dark closet and considered the finest surviving example.)]

I am going to date myself.  I sometimes joke that I learned to program at church in the 1960s.  While this was in the North Eastern part of the San Francisco bay area, there were and are a number of major data centers in the Concord/Walnut Creek area due to the oil industry.  We were given the boxes of cards to play with as kids  I was probably 7 or 8 years old.  We would fold them on the short edge staple them, then make wreaths and other holiday ornaments.  Even making bible school dioramas with the card stock.  Such would be spray painted green, gold, silver and red.

 I claim to have learned to program naturally; reading the printed characters on the top of the cards.

 

David Ashton
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Re: Punch cards
David Ashton   6/26/2014 4:51:14 AM
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@Sheepdoll....> "I am going to print a Babbage engine"

You're KEEN!!!

I want to build up a DOS machine, mainly 'cos I have an Eprom Programmer and a Serial Protocol Analyzer that need DOS.   Plus I like DOS.  A DOS PC boots in about 6 seconds...and I am an impatient old sod.

I'm probably within a few years of you age-wise, but Zimbabwe (actually Rhodesia then) when I was a kid was very different to the USA.  I'm not sure I envy you, but I only got exposed to computers when I was around 20 - Sinclair (Timex to you) and later punched cards at a university job I had.  Was hooked immediately.

> "...transfer the reader program for the tapes to floppy disk, which then got transfered to mac, and is still on my current computer."

But what would you physically read them with?  Can you still get old tape drives??

Sheepdoll
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Re: Punch cards
Sheepdoll   6/26/2014 2:06:14 PM
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@David Ashton - But what would you physically read them with?  Can you still get old tape drives??

Access to tape drives was always a problem.  I never converted the tapes once I graduated from college.  Tapes were big and bulky. The readers were large, the size of refrigerators. The tapes were held across the heads with vacuum columns.  I would from time to time see a drive in a surplus store.  They were heavier than I could lift.  Would not easily fit in the car.  Probably not work due to being disconnected from the machine.

The main issue with the tapes was they were obsolete when I got them recorded at 800bpi.  By 1983 only readers for 1600bpi and 3200bpi were in use.  One does just not knock on the door of the AT&T data billing center and ask to convert the date.  Convert the data to what?  In total the tape might hold 18 to 20mb of data.  That was a lot of floppies.

I did consider reading the tapes optically.  There were devices sold by Edmund Scientific that had magnetic filings suspended in alcohol inside a window.  Other places sold sprays which contained metal filings.  Such would 'develop' the magnetic fields, which could then be photographed through a microscope.

Like many projects this one had too much time and not enough return. So the tapes sat in storage till the Salvation army took them.  I have enough projects to keep me busy for 500 years, so there are probably a few like this that are improbable.

While I may have lost a few programs I wrote in college. Much of the core of the data I lost was posted online as other revisions of the HP libraries were posted online after I dumped the tapes.  So if I ever do want to code an HP 2100 Basic Interpreter emulator to run on an Atmel Tiny85 or Mega328  I still have the option to do so. 

***

Timex-Sinclare.  These were sold in kit form.  My electronics class got the ones that were returned do to bad assembly.  Whe had dozens of broken ones to work with.  I got two working which I used as a sort of Arduino to make a Motion capture device for my animation stand.  I took a solderless breadboard soldered wires to the bottom of it that mated to the I/O expander.  I then mounted stepper drivers to it to control the camera.  The project and student film was good enough to get me an Apprenticeship at Sprocket Systems.  Ironically in the sound department doing Foley.  Then cleaning the dust out of the KEM film editing machines.

Did make for a difficult decision, whether to pursue a career with Apple or Lucasfilm.  I chose Apple, which I think was the better choice.  My early attempts at screenwriting scripts were on those tapes and data that was lost.

As for the solderless breadboard.  I still have it, with the exposed bottom where I soldered the wires to mate with the Sinclare.

[Too bad the Designers of things confrence rejected my talk proposal on the history of watch designs over 500 years.  I wanted to tell the Timex story as part of it.  I actually got a Sinclare 'Black watch' digital watch kit to build when in high school.  Everyone thought I was crazy even then. So what if the watch was too big for my wrist and designed for the wrong gender.  It was something new/digital/different and what we would now call geeky.  I was just 40 years too early on the bandwagon. Now everyone is on it.]

 

JeffL_2
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CEO
PowerPC needs a second source
JeffL_2   6/23/2014 11:58:39 AM
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I know there's probably a lot of folks who assume almost everything that's embedded and wider than 8 bits runs on an ARM processor. That's not even close to right! There's an awful lot of embedded stuff on PowerPC MPC5xx and MPC5xxx MCU platforms that aren't going away anytime soon. And even there most folks think what's left is mostly automotive but they're forgetting embedded avionics where ARM still doesn't have that large of a market share. The combination of multiple hierarchies of hardware timers and LOTS of comm like TouCAN certainly helps a lot in cutting the total chip count in tight packaging. This series is a real staple for many types of avionics especially for applications like GPS and FADECs. There's also quite a few MPC6xx MPUs in the field in current production including ALL OVER the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Yes I realize IBM hasn't provided the merchant market with quantities of parts in awhile (although I thought it would be easier to find what the year was than it's turning out to be). And remember it's not terribly easy or inexpensive to port a long-completed DO-178 Level A project over to a different ISA! The amount of heartburn that would be created if Freescale ever decided to abandon the PowerPC series would be MONUMENTAL and I know the issue keeps many production managers from sleeping at night.

Poor IBM, they're the Rodney Dangerfield of computer companies, they saved the hard disk industry by boosting recording density by 1000x by creating a technology so innovative that a Nobel Prize was awarded for inventing it, now they aren't even in the industry any more...!

EmbeddedSteve718
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Fall of IBM
EmbeddedSteve718   6/23/2014 12:27:06 PM
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For your reading enjoyment:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Decline-Fall-IBM-American-ebook/dp/B00KRHWZ22/ref=as_sl_pc_qf_sp_asin_til?tag=icr0c-20&linkCode=w00&linkId=PA3E4MOYANIRWBCR&creativeASIN=B00KRHWZ22

Second Source for PPC:  it's call Freescale, they 'rule' the network market with PPC's for basestations.  They're probably the only one left with any "real" stake in PPC.  AMCC - they're hedging their X-Gene (as is FSL with their LS-xxxx parts). 

Soon, we may all mourn the loss of this American Icon. . .  IBM==> I've Been Moved. . . Yep, right into obscurity and out the door. . .

 

docdivakar
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Re: Fall of IBM
docdivakar   6/23/2014 2:54:54 PM
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@EmbeddedSteve: It may make sense to get out of semiconductor business altogether for IBM in light of the uber consolidation going on in that business. But I think it would be a grave mistake for IBM to get out of hardware business. It has had many captive markets / customers and it should focus on innovation on serving them better with clearer product roadmaps.

IBM is an easy target for puns but I believe the company has lasting values!

MP Divakar
PS: I am NOT an employee of IBM, never have been so far!

Sheetal.Pandey
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Re: Fall of IBM
Sheetal.Pandey   6/24/2014 1:09:49 AM
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IBM has enjoyed being at the height of sucess for a very long time. IBM is also very synomynous with strong brand value and stability. Fab is a tough business to remain in. Definitely layoffs are worse they affect the person's personality and of course social life. It should be avoided by the company as much as possible.

elctrnx_lyf
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Re: Fall of IBM
elctrnx_lyf   6/24/2014 3:00:52 AM
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In the end is left to the employees to decide whether they want to stick around or may be leave the organization to send the right signals to the top level.

prabhakar_deosthali
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CEO
re:
prabhakar_deosthali   6/24/2014 3:19:10 AM
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It may be a good idea  for the IBM Fab Business employees to make an offer to takeover the business as a startup company. 

I think IBM management will be glad if their own employees would take over the business which IBM wants to hive-off.

So no lay-off fears for the employees, no loss of face for IBM management and a business opportunity for those IBM loyal employees!

What say?

rick merritt
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Feedback from IBMers
rick merritt   6/24/2014 4:49:57 AM
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I'm getting some good feedback from IBMers--pro and con--and welcome more!

Let me know how you see it, even if you want to remain anonymous.

You can comment here or email me privately at rick.merritt@ubm.com

truekop
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Re: Feedback from IBMers
truekop   6/24/2014 8:16:27 AM
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IBM can do a lot of differentiation in the microwave and mmwave market by leveraging their SiGe BiCMOS processes, Unfortunaley as someone who uses their processes it has to be said that their foundry support is very average to put it mildly when compared to the other big players....It looks like IBM is not willing to go full throtle in the foundry model....In my opinion they have a mentality of an internal fab and not a foundry that can support multiple design houses...As others mention i sincerly hope IBM continues to stay in the semiconductor process development path...There is plenty of innovation around in the analog/microwave space that can leverage IBM's great SiGe development.

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