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Chris Metcalf

specialization is for insects

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SFGate.com has a fun article today on the 40th birthday of IBM’s System/360 mainframes.

Mainframes came to be associated with tech's old guard, symbolized by IBM's well-groomed workers who wore suits and ties and sang corny company songs. On the other hand, the new guard, led by firms such as Apple and Sun, were run by young entrepreneurs who started their empires in garages, wore jeans and had long hair.

One would probably classify me as one of those punks in jeans and sandals. And they’d be right. I am a punk in jeans and sandals. I’m the guy who thinks in Linux and clusters and XML, not somebody you’d expect to be dealing with z/OS and DASD and terminals.

But last summer I interned with IBM, and I worked on a product that runs on those “dinosaurs”, and has for over 35 years. Ever been to an ATM? You’ve accessed IMS. I was one of the “short pants” hacking Java code for the guys who wrote in COBOL. And I’ll let you know they’re still kicking out some very respectable numbers. They can pump out queries so fast they’d make Oracle admins cry.

I don’t see mainframes dying out anytime soon. They have their niche, and I think they’ll hold on to it for quite some time. They provide an interesting contrast, acting as the ‘57 Chevy hot-rod that can still beat our nitro-boosted Honda Civics.