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As was described in Chapter 2 of the text (‘Information technologies’, p.42), computing technology is everywhere nowadays in all walks of most peoples’ lives. Students reading this blog have grown up surrounded by computing technology, and probably take their existence and capabilities for granted. However, the substantial role which personal computers (also laptops, tablets, hand-held devices, and more) now play in organisations, and in life more generally, has only really been that way for the past 25 years or so – in fact for some of the computing technology just mentioned it’s more recent!

 

This year it is the 50th anniversary of mainframe computers. IBM was the first company to offer a mainframe computer (a ‘System 360’), which at the time had significant advantage over more general purpose computers in that they were able to have their processors upgraded without the need to change codes or peripheral equipment from earlier computing models.  The advantage of this was that large, powerful information systems could be built up, bolting new components more easily onto existing systems.

 

Mainframes were substantial in size, roughly the size of an average seminar room at your University (there’s a photo of a mainframe on p.14 of the textbook). But, as information technology has advanced, so the positive association between computer size and information capacity has lost its inevitability; nowadays, size is not everything. Having said this, despite the availability nowadays of very powerful information technological capacity in relatively small-spaced hardware, mainframes are still used in well-known organisations. For example, the article from which this blog is sourced cites how the MET office in the UK (the organisation which forecasts weather) still relies heavily on mainframes for generating multiple weather forecasts.

 

Source: BBC News website, ‘Half-century milestone for IBM mainframes’, by M. Ward, 7/4/14