First of all I may be dating myself with even mentioning a mainframe to begin with, but it is very interesting to see the cycle of computers and how they are utilized within the business industry.  Originally mainframe computers were very big computers and were fairly limited when they were introduced.  To input any information into the mainframe you had to use punch cards.  As the years progressed the input process changed and keyboards were introduced along with “dummy” terminals.  A “dummy” terminal didn’t mean it was for ignorant people (even though some may have felt like it).  It meant the terminal was basically an input station with a monitor.   It was tied back to the mainframe where it performed the required actions.  Initially it was done in this manner due to the cost of a personal computer (PC).

As the technology grew and so did consumers acceptance of home computers, the cost to produce computer for the home decreased substantially.  I can remember when I was still in elementary school and my parents bought us an Apple II plus.  There was no hard drive and you had to use five and one quarter inch drives to boot the computer up and be able to use it.  The monitor was monochromatic (green).  Now days the PC is so much more powerful, cheaper, easier to use, and more integrated into everyone’s live it is almost hard to think of life without it.

The dramatic increase in power on the PC has allowed the consumers to use its processing power for applications, computations, and design while not requiring a huge system on the back end to process the data.  This has its advantages and disadvantages when it comes to the business industry.   The main advantage to using the PC and it’s computing power is the cost to upgrade as technology becomes obsolete.  Instead of upgrading a few extremely expensive machines which require a lot of coordination and effort, you can slowly upgrade the PCs on an attrition basis.  This allows the cost of upgrading to be spread out over a longer period of time.   The main advantage to mainframes is the ease of maintenance, upgrades, and control of user access.  You only have to make your changes at a couple mainframes instead of hundreds of computers.  Granted there is software out there that can help in managing this, but it can easily become a full time job depending upon the size of the company.

It seems like the technology is going back to the centralized idea of control and access for businesses with some newer software coming out.  Years ago this was allowed with a program called Citrix.   Basically you performed a remote desktop into a server that had all the necessary software and connections required for the employee.  There were some limitations as to what programs can run in that environment.  The latest software that has a twist is called VMware View.  It allows the virtual operating system to either run on the PC or on a server, yet it is still managed within one location.   Do you think we are going back to the mainframe architecture?

Let me know your thoughts.