July-October 1969


To set such a plan, R.BLOCH assembled at Hollywood-by-the-Sea, near Fort Lauderdale Florida, during the summer of 1969, a large set of specialists from all the branches of the Company including from the Corporate Lab of Schenectady- with Robin KERR from the software department, and from the MULTICS lab with André BENSOUSSAN on loan from Bull.

Bull sent Planning people such as Michel JALABERT , Raymond CHAUVEAU , Bruno LECLERC etc....Engineers were selected from departments not presently involved in NPL such as Claude BOUVIER the chief architect of GE51 and obviously some of the architects working on "NPL" such as Georges LEPICARD in hardware, Jean BELLEC and Claude CARRE in software. GEISI had notoriously Marisa BELLISARIO and also Paolo CESA BIANCHI, Mario ROSSI and other engineers.

The "main team" of around 50 people stayed assembled from July 1 to the end of October, while numerous people were called to feed in information, such as Marc BOURIN for technology and the Bull hardware and software designers involved in the previous steps of the project.
Managers from GE and subsidiaries --J.P. BRULE who joined Bull GE around this time, Tom VANDERSLICE who was then Peripheral division manager - also attended the meeting for a few days. John HAANSTRA died in his private airplane crash when coming back to Phoenix from Florida.

The fall-outs of this meetings were many: but, above all, there was a cross-culture confrontation that was extended to market analysis and planning.

The objectives were to increase significantly the GE market share and to provide a homogeneous offering on almost all market segments. Marketing studies mapped very closely computers' size and customer's size and the major bases for market analysis were "migration tables" based on existing systems and customer loyalty estimation. Vertical segmentation was essentially ignored and software inertia was underestimated. Professional market analysts as J. Diebold or IDC had not yet appeared at that time and the computer manufacturers had to rely on in-house analysis.

The disappearance of punched cards for data entry was now expected, but key-to-tape off-line systems were expected to compete successfully against on-line data entry.

Disc based operating system was expected for all members of the line.

Some of the main technical detailed decisions that have been taken during that period, were to use a Semaphore mechanism for process synchronization and to give priority to the segmentation of the address space instead of paging a single address space if the hardware was not able to get both economically.

As software products, the experience in the, then emerging, Codasyl Data Base organization based on GE IDS was brought by Charlie BACHMAN into the technical culture; the importance of database journalization and roll-back was brought in by Russ McGHEE from the WEYCOS project --an early transactional system based on GCOS-II on GE-600 for the Weyerhauser Company.

Shangri-La Output

The formal output of the Shangri-La meeting was a Master Project Plan that called for a new Advanced Product Line (APL) with four models:

  • A-model was to be a very small business computer,
  • B-model was essentially what the Italian had defined
  • Bull and Phoenix had to plan for two fully compatible models the D-model (Bull) and the E- model.

There was no technical C-model because GEISI had "demonstrated" that the related market could be handled by the same technical object as "B".

An important output of the Shangri-La meeting was the importance given to the problems of park conversion, both internal and external.

The Emulators that were taken in consideration by the meeting had been:

  • the GE100 for which the "C" and "D" systems were targeted,
  • the GE58 for which the "B" was shooting, although some Bull designers did not desperate to have the GE58 being born again as the "A" system
  • the IBM360/20 that was correctly seen as an orphan in the S/360 lineage. Object code compatibility with IBM 360 was not technically taken in consideration.

On the contrary, it was envisioned that Plug Compatible Manufacturers (PCM) could target APL for peripherals or memory units and measures were considered to counteract their entrance on the APL products both in hardware, in software and in maintenance. Channel compatibility and device interface compatibility were excluded that reason. Later, Honeywell experience made the engineers changing -- somewhat- their mind at this subject.

Weaknesses of the Plan

No Manufacturing plan was actually established. An unwritten assumption was that each country would manufacture the systems they design, while some double- sourcing was envisioned.

The Shangri-La meeting was not very fruitful in the domains of technology: GE had expressed that they would buy it instead of making it and participants had extremely erroneous forecasts when they did not predict the advent of semi-conductor memories. Shop costs computed at that time showed to be accurate a few years later, but memory sizes were widely underestimated and led to some errors in software future design. The meeting also underestimated the importance of transaction processing and completely failed to predict the advent of personal computers.

The evolution toward distribution in departmental systems, and multi-vendors' systems was not identified at that time as part of the market requirements. The identified sources of business were the replacement of existing systems and new applications. The important revolution what was emerging i.e., the evolution from batch processing to on-line processing was not given enough attention especially in the low-end.


Shangri-La Follow-on

The main cause of inefficiency during the meeting was due to the parochialism of the participants which was generally encouraged by their hierarchical management because it was assumed that manufacturing was the major source of profitability and that it had to be closely located near the engineering.

It was understood that R.BLOCH intended to build a new engineering organization in a new location, i.e., BRIDGEPORT Conn. and that selected participants will have to move there and some will have to expatriate. As almost all participants did not intend to start from scratch their professional --and sometimes personal life, so there was a considerable reluctance to follow a person who never imposed himself as a charismatic leader.

Just after Shangri-La, Bull reorganized its engineering to be able to take a strong position in the incoming bargaining.

  • Marc BOURIN  took over both Engineering and Planning for the future Medium Systems machine, replacing Pierre DAVOUS

    bourin.gif (4970 octets)
    Marc Bourin

  • Thierry CHAIN took responsibility of Software, replacing Jean Paul BOSS.

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    Thierry Chain

  • Hardware Development was then split between Christian JOLY for technology and implementation
  • and Georges LEPICARD for system design.
  • André RIVIERE was named in charge of Marketing and Planning.
  • Product Planning itself was under the responsibility of Jean-Philippe BECKER assisted by Jacqueline VIDAL, and Lucien NEGRE.

During the period of November 1969 to April 1970, each organization was continuing work on its own part of the project. A relatively weak coordination was held in Bridgeport under the authority of Robin KERR for interior decor and software and Al CONOVER for hardware and product planning.

A commonalty with IBM S/360 I/O at channel- program software level was studied at that time to evaluate an S/360 emulation. The general specification of the PSI channel was specified and particularly its radial configuration as opposed to the multi-drop IBM channel.

Bull performed an analysis of a paging architecture in measuring the sensibility of the operation of IBM OS/MVT running under CP67 on the Grenoble University 360/67. It should be remembered that main memories were still extremely small and that it was requested to operate a full functionality operating system on 64KB, and there was even a proposal to run such an OS -- with paging, into a 4KB memory for the low-end "A" system!



Révision : 19 février 2002.