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End of an era… February 16, 2012

Posted by sandyclaus in Uncategorized.
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IBM shut down its last mainframe this week. Goodbye big iron.

This month marks the end of an era in NASA computing. Marshall Space Flight Center powered down NASA’s last mainframe, the IBM Z9 Mainframe.  For my millennial readers, I suppose that I should define what a mainframe is.  Well, that’s easier said than done, but here goes — It’s a big computer that is known for being reliable, highly available, secure, and powerful.  They are best suited for applications that are more transaction oriented and require a lot of input/output – that is, writing or reading from data storage devices.

In my first stint at NASA, I was at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center as a mainframe systems programmer when it was still cool. That IBM 360-95 was used to solve complex computational problems for space flight.   Back then, I comfortably navigated the world of IBM 360 Assembler language and still remember the much-coveted “green card” that had all the pearls of information about machine code.  Back then, real systems programmers did hexadecimal arithmetic – today, “there’s an app for it!”

But all things must change.  Today, they are the size of a refrigerator but in the old days, they were the size of a Cape Cod.  Even though NASA has shut down its last one, there is still a requirement for mainframe capability in many other organizations.

NASA CIO Linda Cureton

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