50 years of mainframes, 30 years of memories


On April 7, 2014, IBM will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the mainframe. Just a few months later, on June 16, 2014, I will celebrate my 30th service anniversary with IBM—all of it working with the mainframe. Since I’ve been intimately associated with this amazing machine for three-fifths of its life, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to share some of my personal recollections and experiences in a series of blog posts. Starting next month I’ll tackle a decade at a time.


The first picture of me as an IBMer—with my Experienced Programmer Education graduating class, mid-1984.

You might think that working so long for a single brand, within a single company, would lead to a narrow and limited career. Nothing could be further from the truth!

IBM badges

I counted over 120 badges in this pile!

Over the three-decade span of my career with IBM mainframes, I’ve been a developer, tester, architect, strategist, marketer, industry specialist, offering manager and probably a few other things. I’ve worked in three different IBM divisions building hardware, software and solutions.

I’ve done work up and down the entire technology stack: base systems, virtualization, networking, interactive services, middleware, database and applications. And since the mainframe has consistently evolved with the overall technology market, I’ve had a chance to work with just about every hot, emerging technology—and continue to do so.

When IBM discovered that I had a knack for public speaking, “evangelist” became an integral part of my job description, and I began traveling the globe speaking with clients and educating our sales forces. Over the years I’ve visited hundreds of cities, across scores of countries, on every continent on which IBM does business. I’ve written for several magazines, have a few IBM Redbooks under my belt, managed the production of a mass-market publication and even cut a video in a professional recording studio!

Buttons and pins

A few of the buttons and pins that I’ve accumulated over the years.

Of course, after 30 years my long-term memory isn’t quite what it used to be. But fortunately I am a bit of a pack rat and still have my important files, a few photographs and videos, and an assortment of memorabilia.

So off I go to dust off the files and dig into the past. Next stop: the 1980s!

Do you have your own mainframe stories to share? Or are you just beginning your mainframe experience? Either way I’d love to hear from you!

Paul DiMarzio has 30+ years experience with IBM focused on bringing new and emerging technologies to the mainframe. He is currently responsible for developing and executing IBM’s worldwide z Systems big data and analytics portfolio marketing strategy. You can reach Paul on Twitter: @PaulD360.

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15 Responses to 50 years of mainframes, 30 years of memories

  1. IBMer says:

    Paul, keep the interesting stuff coming! :)

  2. Tim Hahn says:

    I am looking forward to reading more on this blog as the year progresses.

    I joined IBM in 1990, working on communications software in the VM operating system. Something I find interesting is that in some ways, the Internet of Things is bringing us back closer and closer to bits-n-bytes level programming – at least as it goes down to controlling the electro-mechanical and sensor-data retrievel aspects of these devices.

    The more things change, the more the basics of computing continue to apply. We just re-invent the protocols every so often.

  3. Jorge says:

    I joined IBM with an internship in 1971, and as a permanent employee in 1973. An “early retirement” from IBM in 1993 did not stop me to continue working, not in IBM, but with IBM.
    Still on the saddle ridding the ol’ dinosaur. Good to celebrate these 50 years!

  4. Carlos Eduardo Zorzin says:

    Paul, amazing and inspiring blog post. Congratulations for your “30 years of memories” within IBM!!

  5. Daniel Raisch says:

    Hi Paul, congratulations for your blog. I also published a blog for the 50 years of mainframes , where I posted an exclusive interview I made with Fred Brooks.

    Visit my blog http://ibmmainframe50anos.blogspot.com/

    regards .

    • Paul DiMarzio Paul DiMarzio says:

      You have some nice posts over there, Daniel, thanks for sharing! (and so glad for Google Translate or I'd have had a real tough time!!)

  6. Peng Fei Tian says:

    It’s so great to see this!! Mainframe is one of the greatest server across the history of Computer Science!

  7. Charles Grady says:

    Congrats to you. I've been a mainframer since 1975 and I'm still at it. I have had the great pleasure of developing code for Duke University and RJR / Nabisco (360-40 & DOS rel 26) early in my career where I worked on the very new online system called CICS and even used an IMS database. It was during the waining days of this period that I this got exposed to VM. Talk about something better than ice cream! WOW, what else could anyone want from a computer (4341). The old boy has been dependable enough to help run several nuclear power plants that I've been associated with during my midcareer ventures and never let us down. I even had IBM knock on my door and pay the bills for a few very good years where I was lucky enough to help support Locheed Space Ops and Cape Kenedy before I was called back to Atlanta to run VM and MVS in the area system center. Alas, they decided that they could afford to operate such centers and move us off to other projects until they decided that they should have layoffs. No fun, but fortunately many industries have stayed with the mainframe and it continues to pay my bills and buy food. I have been with state government for seven years and they say they are going to put everything in the server farm and run applications there; until then the mainframe (Z9) is still chugging and I'm still supporting my clients. So, yes I remember the 029 key punches, 2314, the 2540 reader/punches and all the other hardware that has served us all so well. You keep up your work and just maybe some day our paths will cross. Best wishes.

    • Paul DiMarzio Paul DiMarzio says:

      Thanks for sharing your own memories, Charles. I am SO JEALOUS of your stint supporting Cape Kennedy – my dream job as a kid was being an astronaut!

      I have colleagues that would jump to agree with your assessment of VM, and there are still some interesting things to come in that space. I have yet to see a hypervisor that is its equal.

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