Well, we’ve come to the end of our minicomputer saga, this last episode telling the tale of a daring young mini-based firm in Brooklyn, NY, that had the temerity to think they could grow into the mainframe market.
Why? For the money , of course! Mainframes sold to the largest hospitals who paid the most for hardware and software, so every vendor dreamed of selling to the big boys…
And just who dominated the mainframe market in the late 70s when minis first took hold? If you remember our earlier episodes on mainframes, there’s a simple, 1-word answer you can see on the chart on the right from Sheldon Dorenfest’s 1987 “Guide:”
And who was writing code for these IBM mainframes? A whole bevy of vendors vying for the huge revenue opportunity of selling to the largest hospitals willing to pay many millions to keep their 4300s running, and all developed at pioneering client sites. The leaders:
IBM itself offered software named after 2 of their largest and most prestigious clients who built it:
The Duke/Parkland System , which was primarily a set of clinical apps that clients had to customize heavily to meet their needs
TDS – with superb MIS clinicals & pioneering CPOE developed first at El Camino Hospital in CA
Medicus – an HIS consulting firm who developed a hot patient accounting software package called “Medipac” at Evanston Hospital in Illinois.
Working out of a brick corner building in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn (with no air conditioning in the sweltering summers!), HIS Inc. grew rapidly, selling & installing over 20 LTCs on their mini systems, and growing the firm’s staff and annual revenue nicely.
Many LTCs were owned by or affiliated with hospitals, who liked the system so much they asked if HIS had any acute care software?
That was all the boys from Brooklyn had to hear! George’s programmers took off expanding the LTC system to handle acute care needs. Whatever prospects told Barry they needed, George programmed it Sunday and Gershon installed in on Monday!
Soon Gershon was installing their new hospital mini system all around NY city and state, including such large & prestigious sites as Westchester County Medical Center and NYU right across the bridge in Manhattan!
Rather than start from scratch re-writing all the HIS programs in PL/1, George and “Heshy” (Harold) decided on a brilliant approach:
Translate the software from Basic to PL/1, by writing a translation program that morphed the Basic code into PL/1 logic; where log jams were encountered, then and only then would human programmers jump in and write the needed PL/1 code.
At a stroke (literally), they were off, coding their usual 12 hour days and 6 day weeks (Saturday = Sabbath)
Barry started thinking about the hundreds of large IBM mainframe hospitals around the country who were targets, and realized he needed to hire a Director of Marketing who knew the larger market outside of NYC
And didn’t look and sound like a “New Yahkah” to all those foreigners out West…