Edsger W. Dijkstra

In the IBM/360, which appeared a year later, such queueing was done by “command chaining”: in the chain of queued commands, the last one carried an end marker, and attaching a new command was done by overwriting that end marker by a pointer to the command to be attached. But the design contained two serious flaws.
If at the moment of attachment the channel was still active, the new command would be executed in due time, otherwise the channel had to be reactivated. To establish whether this obligation was present, the instruction code contained test instructions testing whether channels were active or not, but the trouble with such a test instruction is that when a channel is reported to be still active, that information can be obsolete a microsecond later. In the IBM/360 the result was that, when a new command had been attached while before the attachment the channel was observed to be active and after the attachment it was passive, this information was insufficient to determine whether the channel had deactivated itself before or after the attachment, i.e. whether the last command had been executed or not.
Reporting completions was similarly defective. Command chaining had introduced channels that in due time would report a sequence of completions, but instead of a counter there was only the binary interrupt flipflop to record a next completion. If an interrupt signal came before the previous one for that channel had been honored, it would just get lost! They had traded the minor evil of moral urgency for the major one of essential urgency.
At the time I was shocked by the fact that the major product of the world’s largest and most powerful computer manufacturer could contain such a serious blunder. Later I realized that to a certain extent I myself was to be blamed, for when I invented the semaphores and the synchronizing primitives, I did not publish my invention.

The other vivid memory is of what I heard about IBM’s mechanical debugging aid. In order to make errors reproducible they equipped the IBM/360 with a special hardware monitor; in the recording mode it would capture precisely where in the computation each interrupt took place, in the controlling mode it would force the computer to replay exactly the recorded computation, thus making intermediate results available for inspection. It struck me as a crude and silly way of proceeding, and I remember being grateful that lack of money had protected me from making that methodological mistake. I felt grateful and superior, and when a few years later it became clear that IBM couldn’t get its OS/360 right, I was not amazed.

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