Photo of Fred Brooks

Fred Brooks

  • 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.

Along with colleagues Bob Evans and Erich Bloch, Fred Brooks played a major role in the development of the IBM System/360 family of personal computers, which helped to revolutionize the data processing industry. Brooks developed the 360’s operating system to serve any customer, a groundbreaking idea at a time when many believed computers could only be programmed for one specific purpose.

The most important decision Brooks says of his design for the 360– changing it to an 8-bit byte system allowing for lowercase letters, which all computers subsequently adopted. Brooks authored a number of books, including The Mythical Man-Month – a technical book on programming that continues to sell around 10,000 copies per year.

Brooks asserts that the language he developed for the 360 is the worst computer language ever developed. “You can learn more from failure than success,” Brooks said in an interview with Wired magazine. “In failure you’re forced to find out what part did not work. But in success you can believe everything you did was great…Failure forces you to face reality.”

By Jen Santisi