Monday, 2 March 2009

No point being ageist

Our story starts during a recent heated debate about how old-fashioned mainframes are. The suggestion was that mainframe operating systems have been around forever and mainframe applications were also fairly long in the tooth. And the most exciting platform to work on right now was not a PC – because of all its bloatware issues – but a Macintosh. Especially as Apple were defining what’s cool with the iPod and the iPhone.

The argument ran along the lines that z/OS, the main IBM mainframe operating system, has been around since 2000, but it was based on MVS, which had been around since 1970. And MVS was based on older operating systems that were implemented in the mid-1960s. Similarly, z/VM, which also first saw the light of day in 2000, was based on VM, which again arrived in the early 1970s, and was based on work from the 1960s – CP-67. In those days, the C in CMS stood for Cambridge, where it was developed.

IMS, the database and transaction management system, has been around since 1968. You may recall this blog talking about IMS’s 40th birthday last year. The product is in use at 90% of Fortune 1000 companies, with more than 3 trillion dollars of transactions going through it in a single day. It started life as bill of materials software for the space programme in 1966.

CICS is claimed to be in use at over 90% of Fortune 500 companies. This transaction processing software was first available in 1969.

DB2 is a relative youngster, having been first available in 1983. Again, this blog celebrated DB2’s 25th birthday last year.

So the argument that mainframes have a long history is definitely true. The fact that they are continually being updated and developing successfully to meet current needs is also true, and shouldn’t be ignored.

But what about this young upstart called a Macintosh? Well, the first Apple Mac was introduced back in January 1984 – which makes it nearly as old as DB2. What made the Mac so successful was its use of a mouse and a Graphical User Interface (GUI). True the ideas had been pioneered at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), but the Mac sold the dream – when mice and GUIs were what we dreamed about! In fact the idea was such a good one, and made the Mac so user-friendly and easy to use, that eventually all PCs would be sporting them. The Mac made desktop publishing possible at that time. It had people saying WYSIWYG. It’s where I first used Pagemaker. The Mac luggable was almost portable enough to use as a modern laptop. Sling it in the car, wrap a seatbelt round it, and take it wherever. Happy days!

We had Hypercard, which we were never quite sure what to do with. Then in the late 90s we had the iMacs – a computer to be seen with, fashion icon. Then there was the introduction of OSX and all the wild cat versions – Tiger, Leopard, etc.

But, and this is the big but, although the Mac may be sexy and useful, it has got that way after years of development. So while it may be younger than the mainframe. The fact that it is celebrating its 25th birthday means it is no spring chicken!

And watch out if you’re downloading a pirate version of iWorks 09, it apparently contains a Trojan!

Anyway, happy 25th birthday Mac.

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