Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Insane in the mainframe

I'm back in the UK. Jetlag plays funny games with my head for a few days, but I'm generally over the worst of it by now. Apparently it is a really hot day today, I wouldn't know, my car's been in the garage so I deliberately arranged all my boring admin jobs, which kept me inside. I re-wrote 2 documents for colleagues, did my expenses, drank copious amounts of tea and then, with a little 'spare' time I logged onto the mainframe in Dayton.

Now, not everyone has a mainframe at their disposal like I do, I appreciate that, but if you haven't touched one in a while, or even ever, and you consider yourself a techie, find one somehow, they are great (techie) fun. Maybe I should explain... PKWare, whom I am currently contracted to, have a fine mainframe SecureZIP product, which is extremely powerful and useful, but for some reason not widely known about yet. I think everyone is still pretty happy with PKZIP, despite the extra power and security this gives them.

I guess in the 80s when Phil Katz (the PK of PKWare) wrote ZIP, the internet was a smaller place, and everyone used BBS (which PK was also instrumental in developing). What a shame publicity costs money these days. My opinion of the product isn't so relevant in this context though, I've expressed my satisfaction with the PK solution already in these pages.

What I am currently enjoying is playing on a mainframe. There is nothing so satisfying as typing short commands into a green and black (sometimes red and white too) screen, all on command lines, and getting numerical return codes. I don't know why this gets me so much, perhaps it's in my blood. My father sold mainframes for IBM back in the 60s and 70s, my mother programmed on them. No wonder I'm a geek.

Did you know, there is even mainframe related humour? If you understand this joke, you are probably in your 50s or 60s, or have a manual somewhere which explains it...
"What's a SOC4?"
"Covering your foot."
It's so lame, it's good. And I know of at least 2 people (working for PKWare) who are chuckling at this right now. You know who you are.

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