Tuesday, April 30, 2019

How One Computer System Tangled Up Several Airlines | NYT

Some ancient history from New Dark Age: Technology and the End of the Future: "Once it became obvious that SAGE was worse than useless at preventing a nuclear war, it shape-shifted, following an in-flight meeting between the president of American Airlines and an IBM salesman, into the Semi-Automated Business Research Environment (SABRE) – a multinational corporation for managing airline reservations. All the pieces were in place: the phone lines, the weather radar, the increasingly privatised processing power, and the ability to manage real-time data flows in an era of mass tourism and mass consumer spending. A machine designed to prevent commercial airlines from being accidentally shot down – a necessary component of any air defence system – pivoted to managing those same flights, buoyed by billions of dollars of defence spending. Today, SABRE connects more than 57,000 travel agents and millions of travellers with more than 400 airlines, 90,000 hotels, 30 car rental companies, 200 tour operators, and dozens of railways, ferries and cruise lines. A kernel of computational Cold War paranoia sits at the heart of billions of journeys made every year."
"The Sabre system was created in the 1960s as part of a partnership between I.B.M. and American Airlines, which named it the Semi-Automated Business Research Environment. It was spun off from American as a separate company in 2000. Sabre Corporation is now a travel technology company based in Southlake, Tex., that provides reservation systems to airlines worldwide.

The system can be used to manage the reservations, crew schedules, frequent-flier programs and other key parts of an airline’s operation.

“With very few exceptions, almost everything else interfaces from the reservation system,” Mr. Engel said."
How One Computer System Tangled Up Several Airlines | NYT

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