PHILIP MANN
Prinicipal Consultant

Company—
Macro 4

Years in IT—
I tend to say 30-plus years, but it's actually 35 and counting.

My first mainframe job—
In 1977, I joined the John Lewis Partnership from university on its graduate IT training scheme (fairly revolutionary in those days). It looked interesting to me, but I hadn't thought about a career in IT before then. They were just in the process of implementing their first computerized point of sale (POS) system. It came from IBM and was based on the mini-computer (there's a laugh) technology of the day. It worked with the latest IBM mainframes (IBM 370/135 and IBM 370/145 running DOS, yes that's DOS not VSE as it later became). I got involved in all the technical aspects of making this work and left my promising career as a "trainee systems analyst" behind. Eventually, (in my next job at British Home Stores) I transitioned to a full-time job working on the mainframe side of things as a systems programmer. Interesting to note is that the tills in that early POS system were connected together by a forerunner of the IBM Token Ring cabling system (although the cables themselves looked more like bits of string in those days); and communication between the mainframe and the "in store" controllers was an early implementation of the VTAM/SNA comms architecture.

My favorite mainframe memory—
I'm basically a problem solver at heart, so I suppose my favorite memories about working in IT (and there have been a few of them) center around the satisfaction of getting to the bottom of a problem after a long while spent trying to work out exactly what was going on. I used to be able to manage something like a 14-hour session before taking a break; and if you haven't worked it out by then, you need to take a break and then come back and have a fresh look at things (now you've got me going on about the dynamics of problem solving, another one of my passions). Anyway, the satisfaction of getting to the bottom of the problem is more than compensation for the feeling of exhaustion that can last for several days.


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