In pictures: The (mostly) cool history of the IBM mainframe

IBM's iconic mainframe turns 50: In its history the IBM mainframe has been hailed and vilified. It has been born, reborn (many times) and pronounced dead. And yet the Big Iron remains a key computing resource for many large companies and will do so for many years. Here we take a look at the mainframe’s long history, from its use with the US space program to its prominence inside large business datacentres. Take a look.

In 1990, the mainframe got a serious refresh with the 18 model, System/390 rollout. The S/390 also brought with it IBM's high-speed fiber optic mainframe channel architecture Enterprise System Connection (ESCON). IBM said the S/390 featured ultra-dense circuits and circuit packaging that allow higher performance, integrated encryption/decryption for sensitive data, extended supercomputing capabilities, and twice the processor memory previously available. Keep in mind too that IBM touted its heritage by noting that programs and applications based on the widely used S/370 architecture will run on the new systems with little or no modification. Basic purchase prices for the water-cooled models range from $2.45 million to $22.8 million, IBM stated.

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