This monthmarks the end of an era in NASA computing. Marshall Space Flight Center powered down NASA’s last mainframe, the IBMZ9 Mainframe. For my millennial readers,I suppose that I should define what a mainframe is. Well, that’s easier said than done, but heregoes — It’s a big computer that is known for being reliable, highly available,secure, and powerful. They are bestsuited for applications that are more transaction oriented and require a lot ofinput/output – that is, writing or reading from data storage devices.
They’rereally 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 thoughthey are new to the current generation of cyber youths.
In my first stint at NASA, I was at NASA’sGoddard Space Flight Center as a mainframe systems programmer when it was stillcool. That IBM 360-95 was used tosolve complex computational problems for space flight. Backthen, I comfortably navigated the world of IBM 360 Assembler language and stillremember the much-coveted “green card” that had all the pearls of informationabout machine code. Back then, realsystems programmers did hexadecimal arithmetic – today, “there’s an app for it!”