IBM makes an entrance

As a kind of prelude to IBM, it should be noted that the Computer Services Division (CSD) was stripped of its responsibilities for doing administrative programming around 1981. All of the programmers were moved from the Ivinson building to Old Main, and were placed under the vice president for finance. CSD was left in charge of merely operating the administrative systems, overseeing maintenance, and programming/managing the operating system. The new group was called IDM (Institutional Data Management), and later renamed OAS (Office of Administrative Systems). This seemed a largely political move, a power grab or turf war so to speak. The administrative users were not pleased and felt they could do better if the programmers were part of their own structure. By around 1989, with a new director, OAS was recaptured and assimilated back into CSD.

In 1983 a small IBM 4361 showed up. This was apparently due to the library system wanting to run an on-line catalog via software purchased from Brodart, which only ran on IBM systems. There were other forces at work, as well. Some of the administrative users, and perhaps the programmers as well, did not feel that the Cybers were a good platform for administrative processing (no argument). They may have also felt that CDC did not have a serious future, while IBM did. And the fact that you could simply purchase payroll systems and University registration systems off-the-shelf for IBM systems (but not CDC) helped.

There were old stories about IBM using dirty tricks to make sales at UW, and there was a great deal of resentment and dislike of IBM as a result. The arrival of the 4361 was therefore a disappointment but something that couldn't be stopped.

By 1985 the 4361 was too small a system for the work needed, and it was replaced with a much larger 3083 circa 1987. Around 1989 this was upgraded to a dual-CPU 3081, which in turn was replaced by an ES/9000 model 9121-210 in 1991.

Ironically, by this time the libraries had switched to contract service from CARL (Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries) so one of the first justifications for an IBM system had gone away.

The 3081 had been purchased, not leased, and when it was retired it had less resale value than its shipping costs. Four of us purchased it as scrap and tore it down to bare metal, keeping some of the more interesting bits and giving the rest to a friendly recycler. The main souvenirs were the Thermal Conduction Modules (TCMs) which, when first manufactured, cost around $50,000 to $100,000 each. How many of you have a $100,000 paper weight?

Two good articles describing TCMs are in the IBM Journal of Research and Development, V26 no. 1, January 1982.

Next: The VMS Era