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Friday, January 17, 2014

“Without IBM and the systems that they provided, we would not have landed on the Moon.”

‘This is one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’. Of course these weren’t the words muttered by a techy in an IBM lab when years of work had finally completed the mainframe. We all know where these words were really heard across the universe in 1969, when the world first saw two men land on the moon. However, this famous quote is still quite relevant to the IBM mainframe but in a different sense. Few people know that the IBM ® System/360 mainframe helped NASA to launch the Apollo missions making history and changing the way we see the world today.

Mainframe computing has done just that! It's developed the world we live in so these achievements should be remembered when celebrating the Big Iron’s Big Five O! Considered as one of the most successful computers in history, the mainframe led the way for innovative computing changing in more ways than just its name! Our ever-evolving IT industry has tested and pushed the super computer and whilst it's taken a fair battering along the way, it's safe to say that it epitomises Darwin's theory of ‘survival of the fittest’. Fit is a good way to describe it: it's strong, doesn't lack energy and it definitely looks the part!

Arguably its biggest contribution is pioneering real-time transaction processing which led the way to credit card authorizations; one of many things we take for granted today. Online transactions are so simple that you’ll find many a student waking up hung-over with no recollection of the night before, but an interesting eBay parcel on its way...When sequential input output processing was the norm, the ground-breaking ability to take this online helped businesses become more responsive. Personally I can’t imagine computing life before it; we were a patient nation! Now every transaction is fulfilled with ease; we have faith in computers to give us the correct information and pay people successfully because they rarely fail us.  Today I have click and shopped saving me time, money and effort. Had I chosen to actually leave my house I probably wouldn’t have written this entry. Revolutionary! 

Aside from how efficient our lives are becoming because of ground-breaking technologies we also see productivity for the biggest firms in all industry sectors. The extreme scalability, high data handling capability and vast security measures enable firms to rely heavily on this machine that trudges away in the background. I’m sure you’ll know it’s not the cheapest but I’ve yet to find an inexpensive high-valued asset and when I do I probably won’t share it!  Ironically, our mainframe grows in capability inversely to size. Its resilience is second to none allowing for mission-critical data to be handled without the fear of disruption. We are not aware of the impact that the mainframe has on our lives for we don’t see or hear of it but housework is never noticed until it’s not done.

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