Early on in the world of computers, the machines themselves were predominant and software was but an afterthought.
This was in the era of hulking mainframes that filled entire rooms and punch cards that drove computations and calculations.
IBM built many of these mainframes and the computational programs written for them were bundled together and sold as one.
In the mid-60s, an engineer named Martin Goetz and several of his colleagues quit their jobs at IBM to form Applied Data Search.
Goetz and his team wrote software for mainframes that would help sort data for better efficiency in a world where data was stored on tape.
After attending a conference on intellectual property, Goetz began to consider seeking a patent on his sorting program.
Legal teams could not conceive that there was any separation between the machine built for calculating and the software that made it run, even proposing laws that would make it illegal to separate the two.
But Goetz won out, proving his case to the patent office and receiving the first patent for software in history in 1968.
In one of the first issues of Computerworld Magazine, an article on the patent was published titled “First Patent Issued for Software, Full Implications Are Not Yet Known.”
One of the first implications was a lawsuit by Goetz against his former company IBM, to have the software separated from the hardware.
He won this lawsuit, forcing Big Blue to begin selling software as a separate item, thus creating a market that last year surpassed half a trillion dollars.
On October 10th, 2023, Martin Goetz died at his home in Brighton, Massachusetts at age 93 but his impact and vision live on.