Gerrit Blaauw

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Gerrit Anne (Gerry) Blaauw (b. July 17, 1924, The Hague, Netherlands; Ph.D. Harvard, 1952) is one of the principal designers of the IBM System/360 line of computers, together with Fred Brooks, Gene Amdahl, and others.

In 1947, he won an exclusive scholarship funded by IBM Chief Executive Officer Thomas J. Watson. After an initial year at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, Blaauw studied at Harvard University with Howard Aiken, inventor of the early Mark I computer. At Harvard, he worked on design of the Mark III and Mark IV computers. Blaauw met Fred Brooks while he was working for IBM and visited Harvard, where Fred Brooks was then a graduate student.

After graduation, Blaauw returned to the Netherlands where he worked on the second ARRA computer, but in 1955 came back to the United States to work at IBM’s Poughkeepsie labs. He worked with Brooks on a number of projects:

  • He was a designer on the IBM 7030 STRETCH project.
  • He worked on the ill-fated IBM 8000 series, and in particular designed a paging system for the IBM 8106 in the 1960-1961 period.
  • He was a key engineer on the IBM System/360 project, announced in 1964. Among other contributions, Blaauw made the successful case for an 8-bit (as opposed to 6-bit) design.
  • He designed a revolutionary address translation system, the “Blaauw Box”, which was removed from the original System/360 design, but was later used in IBM’s proposal to Project MAC, and incorporated in the important IBM System/360-67. As implemented on the -67, this system became one of the first practical implementations of paged virtual memory – perhaps the first to be commercially practical. (The earlier Ferranti Atlas Computer was a seminal platform for paging research, but suffered from well-studied performance issues such as thrashing.) The -67 was being used in commercial applications by 1968.

After leaving IBM, Blaauw became a computer science professor in the Netherlands. He retired in 1989 as professor emeritus with Universiteit Twente. In 1997, he co-authored a computer architecture book with Brooks.


1994 Computer Pioneer Award
“In recognition of your contributions to the IBM System/360 Series of computers.”
Learn more about the Computer Pioneer Award