And just like that, another era at NASA has come to an end. Linda Cureton, the Chief Information Officer for NASA announced in a blog post that the agency’s last mainframe computer was finally shut down. Main frame computers are the large computers that filled entire rooms, they’re not as big as ENIAC, but they are still larger than a refrigerator.
The computer was an IBM Z9, pictured on the left, it was a super computer that had the power to conduct complicated calculations, but NASA said tit was unnecessary and began to look for other alternatives. According to Cureton, they are best suited for applications that are more transaction oriented and require a lot of input/output – that is, writing or reading from data storage devices. The end-user interfaces are clunky and somewhat inflexible, but the need remains for extremely reliable, secure transaction oriented business applications.
These systems were replaced by smaller, faster and cheaper high-performance Linux and Unix systems that are more scalable and easier to manage. Cureton said it best when she wrote: Back then, real systems programmers did hexadecimal arithmetic – today, “there’s an app for it!” – Oh you need to fly out to the moon and then land a robot on the surface? not to worry, we have an app for that! only .99 cents! – with a free “land on Mars” expansion pack!