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The S32: Pluses and Minuses

The System /32 from IBM offers pluses and minuses for computer users and apparently marks the direction IBM plans to take in the future.

On the plus side, it appears to have good speed, adequate main memory, a choice of disk storage and printers and compatibility with lager systems to allow for gowth .

Tough there may be little new in the technology, it has been put together in an attractive way and, more importantly, in a way that recognizes the needs of firsttime users.

In contrast to the early System 13 days when IBM offered to create programs if only the users would describe their needs (often before they had any comprehension of what the computer was capable ob doing), the vendor this time is stressing the availability of preprogrammed, but tailored, Industry Application Programs (IAP). These lAPs "Impose" limits on what the users do with their S/32s, but they nonetheless get the users up and running as soon as the system is installed.

Source code for the IAPs and an RPG-II compiler provide enough programming facilities so the users can "to their own thing" as they become more experienced.

Choice of an industry-accepted language as the programming tool means that the small installation may be able to hire experienced help if that need arises rather than having to try to get someone to work on a news assembler or with Basic or Fortran, as with some small "business" systems.

The focus of RPG-II provides another plus for the user. There are warious software houses already producing programs in RPG-II for other small systems. On the minus side are, of course, various limitations placed on users by the system.

The hardware is all in one package, which will make it difficult - if not impossible - for users to improve one part of the system by itself.

For example, users who find themselves printbound will not be able to add line printers faster than the 155 lin/min unit that is offered and, similarly users will not be able to upgrade disk capacity beyond the 9.1 M bytes offered .

And, while RPG-II is a good starting point it will probably not be enough f or all users unless IBM is planning to add other language capabilities as "midlife kickers" for the system.

Ease of use and integration are clearly the keys to the system - and probably signal IBM integration in areas other than small systems in the future.

IBM plans for its Future System - as revealed in the documents released in the Telex case show a commitment on the part of the firm to develop "pro

grammerless" systems that wouId be easy to use by general business personnel, an intention embodied in the System /32.

At the same time the total integration of the hardware in the System /32 may signal IBM plans to integrate the functions of its larger systems to a greater extent - forestalling any possible competition from "Plugcompatible" equipment makers.

All in all, the System /32 may show the way that future DP will be handled - at least in the IBM universe.

Aus Computerworld vom 22.1.1975