Distinguished Engineer


Years in IT—

My first mainframe job—
It was as a computer operator in the IBM Poughkeepsie Programming Center running pre-release levels of OS/360.

My favorite mainframe memory—
Back in 1992, I was asked by the manager of all MVS development to give a 30-minute presentation at her all-hands meeting on any topic I wanted. Since this was the peak of the "mainframe is dead" baloney, I thought I'd try to enhearten the MVS developers by telling them all of the great things their OS was used for. But, being a denizen of the laboratory, rather than the real world, I had to first learn what all these interesting and important uses are.

To do this, I spent a whole night at SCIDS at a GUIDE conference (free drinks all night in a very large room) to find out from the real practitioners what they really do with the mainframe. It was one of the most wonderful nights of my career, hearing the sysprogs proudly and enthusiastically talk about the things they run on MVS. I was told about ATM transactions, the setup of toll-free numbers, combat logistics run on a small air-cooled mainframe on the battlefield, the space shuttle mission, and even the engines of commercial jetliners transmitting data in real-time to an IMS system. Of course, there were many more mundane, but essential, activities of commerce and government, which involved running banks, insurance companies and manufacturing firms. I also heard of other, non-MVS uses of the mainframe, such as the White House hosting its email system on a VM/370 system in the basement, and so much being done in the airline industry and the routing of transactions on TPF.

When I gave the little presentation, the developers were really wowed by all the things they enable through the OS they create. They could see that the mainframe could not even possibly just go away in a few years as many of the pundits were claiming. Since this was 20 years ago, we now know that the MVS developers were right, not the pundits. This was when I started using the line, "Western Civilization Runs on MVS," at the end of all of my emails.
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