Science & Tech

Computers that are more than the sum of their parts

1 min read

The impact of modularity on the computer industry

In the 1960s, a potentially serious drawback threatened further progress toward the computer age. As Harvard Business School Dean Kim Clark and his colleague, Professor Carliss Baldwin, wrote in their book, Design Rules: The Power of Modularity, Volume I (The MIT Press), “The support of older applications and systems was becoming a problem of nightmarish proportions [because of] the growing complexity of the systems and the interdependent structure of their designs. Each new computer system had to be designed from the ground up, and only new systems could take advantage of new technologies.” The solution to this dilemma came from IBM in the early 1960s with the introduction of the System/360, the first modular family of computer systems. And it was modularity, Baldwin and Clark explain, that made all the difference.