Archive for August, 2011

30 years of the IBM PC!

August 10, 2011 Leave a comment

IBM’s first personal computer, the IBM 5150 PC, was unveiled at a press conference in the ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York thirty years ago this week, on 12 August 1981.   The arts and design desk of the International Herald Tribune has a story about that PC here.

In 1980, Bill Lowe, director of its research laboratory in Boca Raton, Florida, set up a dedicated task force, led by Don Estridge, to design an affordable personal computer. Realizing that the development process would take too long if IBM adhered to corporate policy by developing all of the components itself, the task force was allowed to source pre-tested parts from other companies. Microsoft developed the software by modifying existing systems. It took only 12 months to complete the 5150 — a record for IBM.

Originally the 5150 was intended to be a home computer, but most of the orders came from businesses. By the end of 1982, IBM was selling one every minute of the working day. IBM stopped making the 5150 in 1987, but its design legacy continues. And although geeks enjoy remembering the 5150’s software bug — when asked to divide 0.01 by 10, it reportedly displayed 9.999999E-4 — it was so robust that most of the surviving machines still work.”


Categories: History

Robustness of electronic marketplaces

August 9, 2011 Leave a comment

The first plenary speaker at the 13th International Conference on E-Commerce (ICEC 2011) in Liverpool last week was Robert, Lord May, Professor of Ecology at Oxford University.  His talk was part of the special session on Robustness and Reliability of Electronic Marketplaces (RREM 2011), which I helped to organize.

May began life as an applied mathematician and theoretical physicist, then applied his models to food webs in ecology, and now finds the same types of network and lattice models useful for understanding inter-dependencies in networks of banks.  Although, as he said in his talk, these models are very simplified, they still have the power to demonstrate outcomes which some may not expect:  for example, that actions which are individually rational may not be desirable from the perspective of a system containing those individuals.


Andrew Haldane and Robert May [2011]: Systemic risk in banking ecosystems. Nature, 469:  351-355.

Robert May, Simon Levin and George Sugihara [2008]: Complex systems: ecology for bankers. Nature, 451, 893–895.

%d bloggers like this: