Contents page

Index (83KB)


mainframe: n. Term originally referring to the cabinet
   containing the central processor unit or `main frame' of a
   room-filling Stone Age batch machine.  After the emergence of
   smaller `minicomputer' designs in the early 1970s, the
   traditional big iron machines were described as `mainframe
   computers' and eventually just as mainframes.  The term carries the
   connotation of a machine designed for batch rather than interactive
   use, though possibly with an interactive timesharing operating
   system retrofitted onto it; it is especially used of machines built
   by IBM, Unisys, and the other great dinosaurs surviving from
   computing's Stone Age.

It has been common wisdom among hackers since the late 1980s that the mainframe architectural tradition is essentially dead (outside of the tiny market for number-crunching supercomputers (see cray)), having been swamped by the recent huge advances in IC technology and low-cost personal computing. As of 1993, corporate America is just beginning to figure this out --- the wave of failures, takeovers, and mergers among traditional mainframe makers have certainly provided sufficient omens (see dinosaurs mating).