IBM Mainframes Marking 50 Years of Service

Image: IBM Mainframes Marking 50 Years of Service A 1964 promotional photo of the IBM 360 computer.

Monday, 07 Apr 2014 07:28 AM

By Elliot Jager

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It has been 50 years since the System 360, International Business Machines Corp.'s first mainframe computer, was introduced on April 7, 1964, the BBC reported.

Earlier computing machines had to be altogether scrapped when they became obsolete. Processors in the IBM model could be upgraded using the same code and peripherals, the BBC reported. Among other advances, the mainframe made computer interface possible,  according to IBM.

IBM spokesman Barry Heptonstall said that mainframes continue to touch the lives of most everyone. They are the backbone of airline reservation systems as well as cash machine withdrawals, the BBC reported.

The Met Office, the British government agency which provides millions of daily weather forecasts, uses mainframes to generate its predictions, Charlie Ewen, its chief information officer told the BBC. "Mainframes have several characteristics that are enormously valuable for us," Ewen said. They are "resilient, robust and are very cost-effective for some of the work we do."

The legacy of the mainframe includes the computer keyboard. "If you were using a terminal-based system, 'System Request' let you interrupt what you were doing and run another job," said Kevin Murell, co-founder of the National Museum of Computing. The "escape" key was used to exit from the menu.

IBM is marking the anniversary on Tuesday in New York City, the company announced.

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