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The Cosa Nostra of the Data Processing Industry


Sample chapter from The Computer Boys Take Over: Computers, Programmers, and the Politics of Technical Expertise. By Nathan Ensmenger. Chapter: “The Cosa Nostra of the Data Processing Industry” http://thecomputerboys.com/?page_id=20

p.2: We are at once the most unmanageable and the most poorly managed specialism in our society. Actors and artists pale by comparison. Only pure mathematicians are as cantankerous, and it’s a calamity that so many of them get recruited by simplistic personnel men. — Herbert Grosch, “Programmers: The Industry’s Cosa Nostra,” 1966 -- Highlighted mar 13, 2014

p.4: Insofar as the Desk Set has been interpreted critically, it is in the context of these larger concerns about the replacement of human beings with computers. The struggle of human versus machine (or more precise, woman versus machine) depicted in the film is often seen as a metaphor for worker resistance to computerization. -- Highlighted mar 13, 2014

p.5: It was during this period that the IBM Corporation rose to worldwide dominance, establishing in the process a series of institutional structures and technological standards that shaped developments in the industry for the next several decades. Under IBM’s substantial umbrella a broad and diverse set of subsidiary industries ourished, including not just manufacturers of complementary (or even competing) hardware products but also programming services companies, time-sharing “computer utilities,” and independent data processing service providers. -- Highlighted mar 13, 2014

p.6: Beginning in the mid-1960s, the noted Harvard Business School professor John Dearden published a series of articles in the Harvard Business Review dismissing as “myths” and “mirages” the alleged benefits of computerized corporate information systems. Prominent industry analyst John Diebold complained, also in the pages of the Harvard Business Review, about the “naive standards” that many businesses used to evaluate the costs and benefits of computer technology -- Highlighted mar 13, 2014

p.6: The inability of computerization projects to justify their own existence signaled “the fizzle in the ‘computer revolution,’” suggested the accounting firm Touche Ross and Company -- Highlighted mar 13, 2014

p.7: As Thomas Haigh has suggested, the meaning of the word software was changing rapidly during the 1960s, and could refer alternatively to something specific —the systems software and utilities that today we would describe as an operating system —or more generally to the applications, personnel, and processes associated with computing. He argues that the software crisis as it was understood by the NATO conference organizers referred only to the former definition. -- Highlighted mar 13, 2014