NASA Pulls Plug on last Mainframe
fgentges at mindspring.com
Wed Feb 15 09:36:54 CST 2012
Several AMRAD members began their work with mainframe computers. Sandy,
WB5MMB being one of them and the list could go on and on. NASA has shut
down their last one although other mainframes continue on.
I have a large compendium of the computers in the U.S. in the 1960s that
lists the IBM 7090 at Goddard that was used to plan our flights to the
moon. Many of us can recall the raised floors in the computer room and
a little window where we could submit our jobs for the mainframe to chew
on overnight. Was I intimidated. No... not really, I just wanted to
know how these monster machines did what they did. In time their
secrets were revealed.
Some years later I got a really hot 50 MHz 486 computer (oohs and ahhs
should mark this) and as I compared it with the 7090 I found listed in
the compendium it was an order of magnitude bigger better and faster.
A short blog from the NASA CIO follows.
Cheers from Orland.
Frank Gentges K0BRA
The End of the Mainframe Era at NASA
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.
They’re really not so bad honestly, and they have their place. Things
like virtual machines, hypervisors, thin clients, and swapping are all
old hat to the mainframe generation though they are new to the current
generation of cyber youths.
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
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. The
end-user interfaces are clunky and somewhat inflexible, but the need
remains for extremely reliable, secure transaction oriented business
//LCURETON JOB (NASA,CIO)
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