Gene Amdahl

From Academic Kids

Gene Myron Amdahl (born November 16, 1922) is an American computer architect and hi-tech entrepreneur of Norwegian descent, chiefly known for his work on mainframe computers at International Business Machines (IBM) and later his own companies. He is perhaps best known for formulating Amdahl's law, a fundamental theory of parallel computing.


Childhood and education

Amdahl was born to immigrant parents in Flandreau, South Dakota. After serving in the Navy during WWII he completed a degree in engineering physics at South Dakota State University in 1948. He went on to study theoretical physics at the University of Wisconsin and completed his doctorate there in 1952, creating his first computer, the WISC. He then went straight from Wisconsin to a well paid position at IBM in June 1952.

The IBM & Amdahl years

At IBM Amdahl worked on the IBM 704, the IBM 709, and then the Stretch project, the basis for the IBM 7030. He left IBM in December 1955 but returned in September 1960 (after working at Ramo Wooldridge and at Aeronutronic). On his return he worked on the System/360 family architecture and became an IBM Fellow in 1965, and head of the ACS Laboratory in Menlo Park, California. He left IBM again in September 1970, after his ideas for computer development were rejected, and set up Amdahl Corporation in Sunnyvale, Calif. with aid from Fujitsu. Competing with IBM in the mainframe market the company manufactured "plug compatible" mainframes, shipping its first machine in 1975 - the Amdahl 470 V6, a less expensive and faster replacement for the System 360/165. By purchasing an Amdahl 470 and plug compatible peripheral devices from third-party manufacturers, customers could now run S/360 applications without buying actual IBM hardware.

1979–now: Entrepreneur

Amdahl left his company in August 1979 to set up Trilogy Systems. With over US$200 million in funds Trilogy was aimed at designing an integrated chip for even cheaper mainframes. The chip development failed within months of the company's $60 million public offering; thereafter, the company focused on developing its VLSI technology and, when that project failed, in 1985 Trilogy merged into Elxsi Corporation. Elxsi also did poorly and Amdahl left in 1989, having already founded his next venture, Andor International, in 1987. Andor hoped to compete in the mid-sized mainframe market, using improved production techniques to make smaller, more efficient machines. Production problems and strong competition led the company into bankruptcy by 1995.

Ever determined, Amdahl co-founded Commercial Data Servers in 1996, again in Sunnyvale, and again developing mainframe-like machines but this time with new super-cooled processor designs and aimed at physically smaller systems. One such machine, from 1997, was the ESP/490 (Enterprise Server Platform/490), an enhancement of IBM's P/390 of the System/390 family. Since then, CDS has changed its name and narrowed its focus. As Xbridge Systems, the company now builds connectivity software to link mainframes and open systems. (As of early 2005, however, Xbridge's website did not list Amdahl as a member of their current management team.)

In November 2004, Amdahl was appointed to the Board of Advisors of Massively Parallel Technologies. The absence of an otherwise noticeable web presence after the turn of the millennium suggested that he had scaled back his industry involvement to an advisory capacity.


Dr. Amdahl was named an IBM Fellow in 1965, became a member of the National Academy of Engineering in 1967 and was recognized as the Centennial Alumnus of South Dakota State University in 1986. He has numerous awards and patents to his credit and has received Honorary Doctorates from his two alma maters and two other institutions as well.

See also

External links

sv:Gene Amdahl


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