Happy 50th Birthday to the Mainframe

Today, as IBM celebrates the 50th anniversary of its System/360, mainframes are still managing 80% of the world’s corporate data.

In April 1964 IBM unveiled a landmark mainframe - the System/360 - and its descendants have been doing the heavy lifting for governments, corporations and large organizations ever since.

Mainframes were produced by several manufacturers during the 60s and 70s, including UNIVAC, Honeywell, General Electric and RCA, but IBM dominated the market with its 700/7000 and then 360 series mainframes.

In the early 70s, the market began to slow, as companies began looking at smaller midrange machines, which could be deployed for a fraction of the cost of mainframes. Demand for mainframes plummeted and, for a while, most new installations were only for large companies and government departments.

Then, with the rise of data networks in the 90s and the trend towards centralized computing, the mainframe started to become popular again. The rise of e-businesses at this time and their need for large scale batch processing also increased the demand for mainframes, which were perfectly suited for such tasks.

In late 2000, IBM introduced 64-bit z/Architecture, and became the name most synonymous with mainframes once again. Today, demand for their products is increasing, with economic giants such as China now needing large scale computing power to service the needs of their ever-growing population.

The mainframe’s obituary has been written countless times yet it continues to reinvent and adapt to modern developments such as as web and mobile technology. 50 years of heritage is testament to it’s continued and enduring relevance.

IBM formally celebrated the 50th birthday of its System/360 mainframe at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. During the presentations, IBM executives announced proudly that half a century was just the beginning for IBM.

IBM’s director of research, John Kelly, spoke about future plans for machine learning, and nano and quantum computing that would run on mainframes in the third era of computing. He concluded that not only will the mainframe be relevant in the coming third era, but that it is absolutely ‘tailor-made’ for the job.