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MIX History


In 1966 IBM sponsored a five-day “Big Cities Symposium” in New York City.  (Learn more about the "Father of MIX" here). It was fashioned after other industry-specific gatherings such as insurance, oil, and auto manufacturing.  This symposium was attended by about 40 representatives of bigger cities and counties.  These representatives (“Data Processing Directors”) were so pleased to meet with their peers and exchange experiences they believed unique to local government that, half-way through the first day’s agenda they told IBM to “cut the sales pitches and let us talk among ourselves.”  By the end of the week, each attendee had described his installation, its successes, failures, and problems.  They believed the week a resounding success and had elected a president of their un-named organization.

By the following year, they had acquired the name Metropolitan Information Exchange, drafted a Constitution, elected other officers, and prepared formal, published presentations from 21 of the attendees. The first official meeting was held in San Jose, CA, December 4-8, 1967.  IBM hosted the organization at various facilities until 1997. 

Most of this early heritage remains.  Membership is limited to 65, with concentration on top information technology individuals from larger cities and counties who want to participate and mutually profit from the frank sharing of ideas and experiences.  The week-long conferences quickly assimilate new members and life-long friendships frequently emerge.  MIX expects its members to use the listserv, contribute to the annual newsletter, and participate in presentations at the annual conference – members receive great benefit because each member contributes a little.  MIX provides real-world, local government experiences from the best.  MIX members pride themselves in their organization and frequently congratulate new members on joining “the finest organization of its kind.”

The First MIX President
Edmun "Ed" Brenman 1966-67
New York City, NY

Ed Brenman (left) was elected first MIX President for the 1966-67 term. Ed is the "Father" of MIX, but he was helped by many others in creating the MIX concept. One time a member asked Ed how many mainframes he had, and Ed responded, "I think it's 53. Oh no, the Library is getting a mainframe this week, so it's 54." The next largest jurisdiction in MIX at that time had 2 mainframes.

Ed represented "big" in local government, and he was tall, too - 6'3", at least. The following is a true story illustrating how Ed set the tone for how MIX would operate. At lunch break on Wednesday Ed and the Mix member from the smallest jurisdiction walked side-by-side toward the cafeteria. This other MIX member was also the shortest at 5'4" and he asked Ed a question. Lunch forgotten, Ed delivered an informative response standing in the cafeteria entrance and blocking traffic. The shorter of the two said, "Thanks, Mr. Brenman." Ed said, "Call me Ed. Just because I have all those computers doesn't mean I'm not a regular guy. I've listened to you a couple oftimes this week, and I'm reminded what it's like to be in the trenches, and in the front lines. You're telling it like it is, not what the salesmen want me to hear. Me, the big guy, is probably learning more than you. By your experience, you already know it."

At that point the little guy thought it was a proud honor to be a MIX member.

Ed was a computer pioneer. He and a few contractors decided to offer a computerized service to the populace of NYC, perhaps 6 million people at that time, and it was called "OFF TRACK BETTING (OTB)". The hardware configuration consisted of 8 minicomputers lashed together; one designated as the boss which served as a traffic cop and distributed the production traffic evenly to the seven worker minis. For three years Ed delivered an OTB update. These dissertations always described how they needed more and faster minis because the salesmen's estimates were low, and also because OTB use was growing like wildfire. These dissertations invariably included a technical discourse about some obscure inefficiency, and Ed described it using terms below the bit level. I think he was talking at the electron level. After his third presentation which lasted one and one-quarter hours, a motion was made, seconded, and approved unanimously that Ed, forevermore, be silent on the subject of OTB.

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