Mainframe Trailblazer Part 3

January is Talent and Training month at Planet Mainframe, so here at Trivia Challenge we’re testing (and hopefully expanding) your knowledge of a few mainframe trailblazers. This week the spotlight is on Gene Amdahl.

Born in South Dakota in 1922 and educated in a one-room school without electricity, Gene Amdahl went on to become one of IBM’s most iconic mainframe architects (Thomas Watson Jr. referred to him as the father of the System/360 series). A serial entrepreneur who did not like being hampered by the constraints of bureaucracy, and never one to rest on his laurels—and there were some impressive laurels—Amdahl was always ready to take on the next big thing. 

He received numerous honors during his lifetime and left behind a legacy of mentorship, a string of companies and products that bore the marks of his genius, and Amdahl’s law.

Take our quiz and be inspired by this mainframe pioneer’s career!

1. Amdah’s undergraduate university education was interrupted by two years’ military service (during WWII), which gave him an introduction to electronics—including vacuum tubes, radio circuitry and radar. In which branch of the military did he serve during WWII?


2. Amdahl attended the University of Wisconsin for his PhD because he was rejected by which school(s)?


3. What was the name of the computer he created as part of his doctoral dissertation?


4. Amdahl attracted the attention of IBM while at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. After joining IBM immediately after graduation, Amdahl became the chief architect of which computer?


5. When Amdahl left IBM in 1956, what reason did he give?


6. He returned to IBM in 1960, however, and became the lead on the IBM System/360 family of mainframe computers.  In the first five years, how many of the S/360 did IBM sell?


7. Amdahl left IBM for the second and final time in 1970 to found the Amdahl Corporation—which made mainframe computers that could run the same software as the System/360 but at a lower cost. For this venture he had significant funding from which company?


8. By 1979, Amdahl Corporation had over 6,000 employees worldwide and had sold what amount  (in US dollars) of V6 and V7 mainframes?


9. A serial entrepreneur, Amdahl left the Amdahl Corporation in 1979 to form a new company. Not all of his ventures were successful, and he was a firm believer that it was “okay to fail.” Which of the following companies started by Amdahl either failed outright or fell far short of Amdahl’s hopes?


Sonja Soderlund is an Oregon-based B2B freelance writer. Whether writing about mainframe computers, educational technology, or sustainable retail, she strives to bring clarity to complex issues. Connect with her at or LinkedIn.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *