Back in fashion: The return of the mainframe – the mother of all computers no longer looks that old

Geeks may roll their eyes at the news that Namibia is only now getting its first mainframe — a technology that most consider obsolete. Yet the First National Bank of Namibia, which bought the computer, is at the leading edge of a trend. Comeback is too strong a word, but mainframes no longer look that outdated.Until the 1980s mainframes, so called because the processing unit was originally housed in a huge metal frame, ruled supreme in corporate data centres. Since then, these big, tightly laced bundles of software and hardware have been dethroned by “distributed systems”, meaning networks of smaller and cheaper machines, usually not based on proprietary technology. But many large companies still run crucial applications on the “big iron”: there are still about 10,000 in use worldwide. Withdraw money or buy insurance, and in most cases mainframes are handling the transaction.

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