ACS Reunion, July 24, 1999

IBM T. J. Watson Research Center, Yorktown Heights, NY

Notes by Lynn Conway, 1999:
On July 24, 1999,  IBM-ACS vets Herb Schorr, Lynn Conway and Fran Allen met with with John Cocke at the IBM T. J. Watson Research Center, along with Mark Smotherman of Clemson University and Peter Capek of IBM. ACS vet Ed Sussenguth participated by conference call from North Carolina.
Mark discussed his ACS historical reconstruction effort and overviewed the materials on his ACS website. I had brought along a copy of my ACS archives.  I showed it to John and discussed how it might be used to reconstruct the hardware architecture. Fran Allen went through a number of key ACS documents that she had located, including a critical missing link: the ACS Instruction Set Manual. Herb Schorr contributed a lot of reminiscences regarding key events in ACS history; I've never seen Herb so animated in conversation before (I sent Herb a copy of my archive after the meeting). We enjoyed a wonderful dinner and conversation at the Kittle House that evening, being joined by Peter's wife.
Some background on how the reunion was arranged:
I'd recently learned from Mark Smotherman and Peter Capek that although John Cocke had heard about 'Lynn Conway' in her new career and was quite familiar with the impact of my research, he'd had no idea over the years that I was formerly the boy at ACS who had worked on the timing simulator and invented DIS. Peter quoted John as saying "Holy shit! That's amazing!", upon learning several months ago about how that boy had gone on to become Lynn Conway.
I then mentioned to Peter that it might be nice if some of the ACS vets could get together and visit with John sometime, and Peter then arranged for this informal 'ACS mini-reunion'. We also used it as an occasion for introducing Mark to John and the other vets, and for discussing Mark's ACS reconstruction effort.
This meeting tied up a lot of loose ends regarding the ACS project, and triggered further team-efforts at historical reconstruction. This seemed to mean a lot to John, because ACS was perhaps his favorite project. ACS was a indeed a phenomenal project; hopefully the accomplishments made there will gradually be recognized as being fundamental to much of modern computing.

John Cocke, Fran Allen, Herb Schorr and Lynn Conway

IBM T. J. Watson Research Center, Yorktown Heights, NY, July 24, 1999

Photo by Mark Smotherman


In memoriam:  John Cocke, 1925-2002





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