50 Things that Turned 50 with the Mainframe

It’s a milestone year for the mainframe, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2014. The platform’s evolution over the past 50 years is remarkable, as is its continued relevance among the most data-heavy industries.

The world itself has changed radically since 1964. And if I may be so bold, the mainframe has powered much of the advancement. It continues to transform businesses, industries and daily life, powering everything from ATM transactions to the latest weather forecasting technologies.

Mental Floss recently took a look at what else is celebrating its fifth decade in 2014. While the mainframe didn’t make the website’s list, it’s nonetheless an interesting collection of birthdays that all help give some context to what life was like in 1964—and how many of the innovations from that year are still vibrant parts of our lives today.

On the technological front, the first plasma displays that now comprise most flat-screen TVs were developed at the University of Illinois. The LCD screen was also born—and according to the article, the number of LCD screens today outnumbers the world’s population.

They say necessity is the mother of invention—and that’s how Buffalo wings got their start, too. Mental Floss says a Buffalo, NY, restaurant owner received a shipment of way too many chicken wings in 1964 and devised the tangy recipe to use them up. Clearly, the market for wings is still booming: Buffalo Wild Wings, for example, recently opened a 15,000-square-foot restaurant in Times Square and during 2013 brought in $341.5 million in revenue—a 12.4 percent increase, year over year.

The game show Jeopardy! is also celebrating 50 years in 2014 and has been in the news a lot recently for two standout contestants: Arthur Chu, who made headlines this spring for his 11-game winning streak and unusual playing style, and Julia Collins, whose 20-game streak made her the second most-winning contestant ever and the all-time top female player.

But amid all the discoveries and creative developments in 1964, the most important was in society: President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, which forbid racial discrimination in hiring, housing and more.

Now that’s some good company for the mainframe.

System z itself continues to be pivotal to the world—economically, technologically and socially. From giving Wal-Mart the power to serve more than 250 million customers a week to bringing banking to people in remote Africa who’ve never had access to financial services, the mainframe’s rich influence will persist long into the future.

See Mental Floss’ full list of 50th birthdays.

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