To stay with the metaphor: I recently went on an excursion from the island of Java, left the sea shore where she sells C shells, and had a peek at an almost forgotten corner of the world: Mainframes.
As a teenager, I knew that three categories of computers existed on this planet: Mac, IBM PCs, and Commodore 64-Amiga-Atari.
Rumour had it that other operating systems existed, mysterious ones that nobody had ever seen or used before. Allegedly, they looked like DOS, but had hidden powers that surpassed Apple System 7. :-o If you were cool, you dropped “.. and Linux!” into a conversation about operating systems, but that was as much as we knew.
The first chance to actually get my hands on Linux and Unix was at university. The computer categories in my mind adjusted themselves to either newfangled (Mac, Windows PC), or oldfangled (Linux, Solaris).
A sysadmin had helpfully slapped a basic fvwm2 user interface on the Linux boxes and left us freshmen to figure out how to navigate without a file explorer. Yup, this was the “DOS with System 7 powers” from the children’s tales. But we managed and soon we had leet “mkdir; cd; touch; ls; man; vi” skills. Hah. :-P The year after, we already giggled at the faces of the next generation who unknowingly started their session on the Solaris server. One look at the gray and purple UI, and they declared it “a broken Linux.” Newbs. Then they proceeded to reboot the lab machine to Windows. Ouch.
Last month, there was yet another dramatic shift in my computer categories mind map: For a project at work, I need to learn “mainframe and z/OS basics”. Sure, bring it on! I always had vaguely categorized mainframes as running some kind of Unix. Wrong, they are far from that.
Finally, my mind’s two computer categories are clear: Modern (including Mac, Windows PC, Linux PC, Solaris) versus antique (z/OS). o_O
Yes. Just one week of learning z/OS basics, and Linux/Solaris are happily and firmly lodged in my “modern” category! Everything you always wanted to know about mainframes (and what makes them so different) coming soon.