By Reg Harbeck
"I don't understand this!" said Ubuntum-9@, shaking his head. "It's like this document is describing exactly what's happening right now, but it was written more than a thousand years ago in @Murrican English!"
"How bizarre, indeed," Galil3o-^$ responded. "It’s like this ancient text is describing what we're saying right now. How did you encounter it?"
Ubuntum-9@: "I was Inter-thinking about the world economy and the technology that runs it and became aware that I could participate in maintaining the platform where it all happens. That is when this text appeared, describing exactly the conversation we're having right now and telling me what I should know so I could start being effective."
Galil3o-^$: "Great Oort Cloud! It even has me uttering my favorite exclamation. And then it continues with something about a ‘mainframe’— I thought those things were dead dinosaurs that they decommissioned when I was a kid."
Ubuntum-9@: "Apparently, that myth has been around since the earliest years of this mainframe, back when the alternatives to it involved panes of glass, fruits and flightless waterfowl. I can see how people would be more prone to trust something they could take seriously."
Galil3o-^$: "Can you imagine people making changes that would affect the global economy in the distant future without even testing and going through change control or running on platforms that were easily subject to slow-downs, failure, corruption, data loss and hacking? No wonder this 'mainframe' outlasted them all — it looks like people have been carefully planning, testing, backing up and securing it since Our Schrager set forth the principles."
Ubuntum-9@: "Yes, though Brooks the Great seems to have laid the groundwork. In fact, it looks like there were many, many great people who built this platform on the wisdom and experience of all of human history."
Galil3o-^$: "Now that's a lot of people, especially spanning a millennium since the first mainframe — surely you’re not suggesting you’ll be one of them."
Ubuntum-9@: "Why, yes, I am! It turns out that every individual 'mainframer' has made an important contribution to this platform throughout history, first by learning the history and context of this machine and then by carefully taking responsibility for it as their experience and ability allowed."
Galil3o-^$: "OK then, I see by reading further along in this document that you're going to tell me some key things you need to know."
Ubuntum-9@: "Yes, there’s the hardware — the physical mainframe and the devices attached to it — that are so high-quality it takes decades for the average component to need replacement. Then there's the operating system, which is written according to the highest standards specifically for the mainframe hardware. There's also the middleware that allows people to manage the mainframe better and get the most out of the hardware and operating system. Finally, there are the applications that allow the largest organizations on Earth to play their key roles in the world economy."
Galil3o-^$: "Give me a break. That's just technology — we are so far beyond that. It's like extolling the value of a hammer. What really matters here?"
Ubuntum-9@: "I was just getting to that. All of that stuff emerged from a culture that has always been the heart and soul of this platform. These are people who are hard-working, dedicated, highly intelligent and seem to be able to put the interests of their organizations ahead of their egos. They know the unique environments of the organizations where they work and the mainframe systems that serve them. And they're part of the greater mainframe culture that continues to thrive in key activities such as this organization called 'SHARE.'"
Galil3o-^$: "That’s nice. But how are you going to be accepted into such a deep, old culture? Surely having read this brief document isn't enough."
Ubuntum-9@: "Oh! Apparently, the fact that I have computer education and experience will help, and if I can pass a series of job interviews to assess my character and competence, I may be given the opportunity to prove my fitness. But in the meantime, I need to immerse myself in the great writings such as the IBM documentation and Red Books and humbly learn from the masters at IBM-MAIN and SHARE. And I need to learn to look up the answers to my questions before asking, as there are many answers out there waiting for those who are truly worthy."
Galil3o-^$: "How funny. The document seems to end here. It's a good thing we can Google our Inter-think to learn more!"
Reg Harbeck is a self-described "mainframe nerd" who has been working in IT and mainframes for more than a quarter century. During that time, he has worked with operating systems, networks, computing security, middleware, applications and platforms ranging from Apple ][+ and MS-DOS PCs to leading-edge IBM z System Mainframes. Harbeck has written, presented and consulted on mainframe-related matters around the world, visiting every continent except Antarctica (so far…) and is very involved in the mainframe culture and ecosystem, particularly with SHARE, zNextGen and SECurity projects. In 2011, Harbeck also co-founded Mainframe Analytics ltd., where he is the chief strategist.