From the young age of 14, when I got my first taste of using a Mainframe, working after school in a local Data Centre, the dream of one day actually making the journey to Poughkeepsie in New York state, in the United States of America, has long been one of those things I kept telling myself for decades now “you’ll get there one day”. Well that day finally came!
When I got the call that made that dream come true, I’ll freely admit I literally jumped up and down like a school kid – finally some 35 years after the wish to visit the “home of the Mainframe” that dream was going to come true. Thanks to both Stephanie Freyer, Global Social Content Strategist & Team Lead, and Ryan Bares, IBM Systems Social Programs Lead, and the teams which support them, we quickly developed a plan to pull together all the moving parts to not only make the dream come true, in the form of an exclusive “behind the scenes tour”, but to give you my social network of friends, associates and peers, the opportunity to come along with me and experience my trip by living vicariously through me via social media.
How did this come about you ask, well it all began when the amazing team at IBM invited me to do an exclusive “behind the scenes tour” of the famous IBM Poughkeepsie campus, birthplace of the Mainframe. From the initial call and countless emails and messaging via various social platforms and web conference calls, a date, time, place, and plan was mapped out and then I started counting down the days till I got on a plane to wing my way to the USA to fulfil that life long dream.
I’m sure some of you are asking yourselves “wondering why on earth would I want to visit a place that is famous in part for being the birthplace of the Mainframe computer”, thinking it would be like a tour of a “history of computers”. But if you did think that, you would frankly be dead wrong.
Some six or so decades after the Mainframe first launched onto the centre stage of the world of ground breaking computer design, manufacturing, and world leading software and management ecosystem built around the whole Mainframe space, today so many decades later, Poughkeepsie is still very much the thronging heard and soul and lifeblood of some of the biggest Big Iron on the planet.
Every now and then I’m reminded that Australia is a long way away from anywhere, even local nations in the AsiaPac and Oceania region, and I have to admit that the fun trip from Sydney to Poughkeepsie in the USA reminded me yet again just how far away Australia is from the other side of this little planet.
My epic journey to Poughkeepsie included a 9.5 hour flight from Sydney to Hong Kong, a short 1.5 hour stop over in Hong Kong then a 17.5 hour flight from Hong Kong to Newark airport in New York City, followed by a two hour car ride from New York City to the city of Poughkeepsie, some 27 hours of actual flying time, and around 37 hours “door to door” from home to the Residence Inn at Poughkeepsie.
Poughkeepsie is a surprisingly small city, once the state capital of New York, it’s home to some 32,736 locals, and although the number of IBM’ers who work at the IBM Poughkeepsie site is a closely kept secret so I can’t share that with you – I can say that they make up a more than significant percentage of the Poughkeepsie city population. My driver commented that a high proportion of his clients each day were IBM’ers, and local stores I visited and asked “do you get a lot of IBM’ers come through” – most just smiled and laughed and said “oh yes, they are”.
Many things which have influenced my life and working career actually came out of IBM Poughkeepsie, and if I was to try and list them here I’d be here all day, but one example was from 1956, when IBM demonstrated the first practical example of artificial intelligence when a fellow by the name of Arthur L. Samuel of IBM’s Poughkeepsie laboratory programmed an IBM 704 not merely to play checkers, but he created an engine which could in fact “learn” from its own experience. I read about this a couple of decades after the actual event, but it’s long stuck in my mind that here and now in 2018 we are seeing a Cambrian like explosion of life around Artificial Intelligence and often behave like it’s a new idea, when in fact it goes back decades, and in particular as far back as 1956 in the “home of the Mainframe”.
The list of amazing business & technology innovations which have come out of IBM Poughkeepsie and the IBMz and Mainframe world that lives there are simply breathtaking. The number of photos on the walls as you walk around the halls of the IBM Poughkeepsie campus of Inventors, Designers, IBM Fellows, men and women who forged new and exciting inventions, innovations, in almost every single aspect of every phase of our history of computing, and that continues through to now, where today IBM is still designing, manufacturing and shipping Mainframes which perform at levels of speed of compute, networking, storage, and scale with service levels that are simply orders of magnitude beyond the “nines” other platforms are even capable of. I lost count of how many familiar famous names and faces I saw both walking the halls of the Poughkeepsie campus or simply on the walls in the many “walls of fame”.
Over the first few hours of our tour, I actually got to do a “take over” of the IBMz twitter handle and tweet directly from my own smartphone as “@IBMz” and I have to say it was one of the most fun things I’ve done for a long time, it’s quite a heady thing to be tweeting as the official twitter handle of the IBM Mainframe business unit, and I hope to be able to do it again soon some time – perhaps at an event soon 😉
Over the next week or so I’ll be working closely with the team at IBM, lead by the indomitable Stephanie Freyer, Global Social Content Strategist & Team Lead, to publish a whole swag of amazing content we captured on my exclusive “behind the scenes tour”.
If you’re following me on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, StumbleUpon, YouTube, Tumblr, Pinterest, or Twitter, you’ll no doubt have already had a healthy taste of what’s to come, if you haven’t seen the full feed so far please do take a moment to jump onto Twitter and take a “walk” with me through IBM Poughkeepsie before we start to publish the full videos and photo galleries, you’ll be amazed by what we managed to cover in the short space of a few days.
The week at Poughkeepsie saw me capture some amazing content for you, which we’ll soon be sharing over a series of days, including interviews with the best and brightest of the IBMz and LinuxOne teams, subject matter experts (SME’s) from Security, Blockchain, Chip Design, Manufacturing, an Agile Centre hosted right in the heart of IBM Poughkeepsie, the Test Floor teams where they Make, Bake & Shake mainframes and “burn them in” to test every possible element of the systems before shipping them to customers, to ensure these amazing machines are 100% tested and proven well before they are shipped to customers who expect them to be on time, all the time, every time.
I also got to spend time on camera with so many of the gods of IBM’s Engineering, Design, Security, Infrastructure, Chip and Code builders & testers, Offering Managers and their teams, as well as some new faces to the IBM Poughkeepsie team from Interns and Grans through to the likes of Connor Krukosky “the Mainframe kid” and a couple of his young associates who each work on some of the most intimate inner core elements of the IBM Mainframe systems, from Chip & Circuit design, to Assembler level code and regression testing, to software emulation of “an entire Mainframe” to test chip design before it’s committed to silicone – all three of these “whizz kids” currently count their “time with IBM” in mere months.
So I’m sure you can tell I had an amazing time, and I’m so excited to be able to share the journey with you here on social media in tweets, blogs, posts, live streams and videos.
If there’s anything you would like to know more about, if you’d like to have me setup calls or meetings with any of the folk I got to speak with or do interviews with, or any of their teams, please to drop me a quick note to let me know as I’d be most honoured to connect you with the right people in the right parts of IBM’s Mainframe “IBMz” team, LinuxONE team, or any part of IBM for that matter.
I look forward to your comments with thoughts and feedback, and I hope you enjoy this “behind the scenes tour” living it vicariously through me, as I did actually being there all week in person, finally getting to live out my life long dream of “visiting the birthplace of the Mainframe and getting to know some of the gods of Big Iron, old and new”.
You can learn more about these amazing machines here => https://ibm.co/DBmainframe