Minicomputers: The Soul of an Old Machine Jan. 28, 2020

from Command Line Heroes· ·

They don’t fit in your pocket. But in their day, minicomputers were an order of magnitude smaller than the room-sized mainframes that preceded them. And they paved the way for the personal computers that could fit in a bag and, eventually, the phones in your pocket. 16-bit minicomputers changed the world of IT in the 1970s. They gave companies the opportunity for each engineer to have their own machines. But it wasn’t quite enough, not until the arrival of 32-bit versions. Carl Alsing and Jim Guyer recount their work at Data General to create a revolutionary new 32-bit machine. But …



They don’t fit in your pocket. But in their day, minicomputers were an order of magnitude smaller than the room-sized mainframes that preceded them. And they paved the way for the personal computers that could fit in a bag and, eventually, the phones in your pocket.

16-bit minicomputers changed the world of IT in the 1970s. They gave companies the opportunity for each engineer to have their own machines. But it wasn’t quite enough, not until the arrival of 32-bit versions.

Carl Alsing and Jim Guyer recount their work at Data General to create a revolutionary new 32-bit machine. But their now legendary work was done in secret. Codenamed “Eagle,” their machine was designed to compete with one being built by another team in their own company. These engineers recall the corporate politics and intrigue required to keep the project going—and how they turned restrictions into advantages. Neal Firth discusses life on an exciting-but-demanding project. One where the heroes worked together because they wanted to, without expectations of awards or fame. And all three discuss how this story was immortalized in the non-fiction engineering classic, The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder.

If you want to read up on some of our research on minicomputers, you can check out all our bonus material over at redhat.com/commandlineheroes. You’ll find extra content for every episode. Follow along with the episode transcript.