Photo of Bob O. Evans

Bob O. Evans

  • National Medal of Technology and Innovation
  • Computer Science

For their contributions to the development of the hardware, architecture and systems engineering associated with the IBM System/360, a computer system and technologies which revolutionized the data processing industry and which helped to make the United States dominant in computer technology for many years.

In his memoirs, former IBM executive and computer scientist Bob O. Evans summed up his phenomenal success with an almost ho-hum response: “It was sheer luck — being in the right place at the right time.’’

Perhaps luck was involved. But it’s more likely that Evans’ intelligence and work ethic had more to do with it. Evans led the company’s development in the 1960s of a new class of computers, the 360 line, which helped IBM become one of the world’s most successful and powerful companies.

Evans, who grew up working summers on farms in Shelton, Neb., joined IBM in 1951 as a junior engineer. Evans, who graduated with a bachelor’s of science degree in electrical engineering from Iowa State University, rose quickly through IBM’s ranks. In 1962 he was promoted to vice president of development for the company’s Data Systems Division which included management responsibility for development of IBM System/360.

IBM sunk an astonishing $5 billion in the engineering, development and construction of the 360 line, which the company calls the “first total family of compatible computers and the first that enabled different applications to run on the same system simultaneously.’’ The money was a staggering investment that became known as a “bet the company” gamble and Evans was one of its chief architects and cheerleaders.

That gamble paid off – with Evans responsible for much of the success — prompting company Chairman Thomas Watson to call it the most important product announcement in IBM’s history.

By Robert Warren