Biographical / Historical
SHARE (Society to Help Avoid Redundant Effort) was formed in 1955, when users of International Business Machines (IBM) 701 computers in Los Angeles were anticipating the delivery of the IBM 704 computer. At this time, IBM relied on its computer customers to program the machines they purchased. "The only software that came with the hardware were copies of the user's manual, a crude assembler, a loader (non-linking), and a few utility routines" (Armer, 122). Both the manufacturer and the customers needed a library of mathematical programs, called subroutines, for the computers to perform their intended tasks. To produce them individually was prohibitively expensive; the cost of developing a system to use a machine, "and a set of routines to go with that system, was usually in excess of a year's rental for the equipment" (Armer, 124). SHARE's organizers felt that this could be accomplished most efficiently through cooperation among IBM users.
The primary purpose of SHARE, according to a 1968 SHARE conference program, was "to promote the free interchange of information for advancing the effectiveness of use of [IBM System/360 or IBM 7000-series computers]. A further aim is to reduce redundant effort among system users in the preparation of computer programs for general use." SHARE sought to standardize machine language and certain machine practices, eliminate redundant effort connected with computers, promote inter-installation communication, and develop effective communication between users and the manufacturer. By mid-1956, forty-seven "installations" or organizations with an IBM computer were SHARE members, and 300 machine-checked 704 programs were placed in an IBM ¬maintained library for member use (Bashe, 349). SHARE members later wrote and evaluated programs for the IBM System/360 machines, a product line announced in 1964.
SHARE groups called "projects" organized, evaluated, and transmitted the information; all participation was on a voluntary basis. SHARE held two general meetings a year, at which all active projects held one or more meetings. The expansion from a focus on program creation to evaluation represented a more mature phase for the organization.
The Numerical Analysis Project was one of those groups. During the SHARE general meeting in March 1964, members participating in the Numerical Analysis Project of the SHARE applications division decided to organize and carry out an extensive project to evaluate numerical-mathematical type SHARE programs, which had to be highly accurate in order not to waste expensive computer time. Programs were selected from the SHARE-3000 series, the SSP (Scientific Subroutine Package), and the CPL (Contributed Program Library). The¬ co-chairmen of the evaluation committee assigned review tasks to participating members, who could accept or refuse assignments. Their review time was to be three to four months, and authors mailed their reviews to the co-chair. The chair of the Numerical Analysis Project's Program Evaluation Committee from 1965 to 1968 was Hirondo Kuki at the University of Chicago's Computing Center. After he resigned the chairmanship in 1968, Robert E. Funderlic and Joseph S. Crowell of the Union Carbide Corporation, Nuclear Division, became co-chairs; Funderlic resigned from his position later that year.
Each program was reviewed twice. Programs were evaluated extensively for reliability and accuracy, as well as timing, size, features, design, and documentation provided by the program's author. Reviewers submitted written reviews with documentation of their testing and review process.
SHARE was the first computer user group in the United States, and became a model for a number of other user groups, including GUIDE (formed in 1956) and USE (formed in 1955). Before groups like SHARE, most programmers did very little sharing of programs of general applicability. The idiosyncratic manner of machines accounted for this in part. Inoperability was a factor as well; a program written for one machine would require tedious re-coding to operate on another (Bashe, 348).
Although computer technology has changed considerably since its inception, SHARE still exists (www.share.org), and has offices in downtown Chicago. It has a full-time staff and more than 2,000 member companies that include international corporations, representative government agencies and educational institutions.
Armer, Paul. "SHARE--A Eulogy to Cooperative Effort." Annals in the History of Computing 2, no. 2 (April 1980): 122-129.
Charles Babbage Institute. "SHARE Marks 40th Anniversary." Charles Babbage Institute Newsletter 17, no. 3.
Bashe, Charles J., Lyle R. Johnson, John H. Palmer, and Emerson W. Pugh. IBM's Early Computers. (MIT Press Series in the History of Computing.) Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1986.