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Notes from Master the Mainframe 2019, Part 1

By Daniela Morell posted Mon October 07, 2019 03:57 PM


I have to admit that I did not know a whole lot about mainframes before coming on as a consultant to help with student community strategy for IBM
Master the Mainframe. Quickly it became apparent, however, just how much infectious enthusiasm there is on the subject from those working in the field. Tantalizing statistics abound -- Did you know that there are 5 times more transactions on mainframes every year then there are Google searches? Almost 90% of credit card transactions run on mainframes! And just a few weeks ago with great fanfare IBM released an innovative new system, the z15, designed for modern hybrid cloud strategies. 

All this information was very exciting but to really understand I had to get my hands dirty. Lucky for me, when the 2019 Master the Mainframe launched (a contest with prizes for students and a learning system with bragging rights for the rest of us) I finally had my chance. So how does one go from knowing nothing at all about mainframes to connecting with a technology that is at the bedrock of civilization!? Well it’s as easy as signing up and following the instructions. So far I have successfully completed Part 1, and looking forward to checking out Part 2 next. 

Completing Part 1 was fun and interesting. Although the challenges are designed to start off simple (how to interface with the mainframe, to connect and navigate the system) as an absolute beginner I still had to look a few things up... For example, the first instruction is to download TN3270, which I was not familiar with. Turns out 3270 is the green screen, which in the old days (1971) was a cutting edge terminal that allowed for connecting to the mainframe from remote locations, and today is a telnet (the TN part) emulator that allows you to connect from any computer -- an interesting blend of foundational technology and the internet. So far, so good!  I’m probably a long way from becoming an expert and I do still have a few questions, like if I mess up and find myself on screens I don’t understand, how do I get back to the beginning without closing out and starting over again? This time I was trying to do it all myself, next time I’ll ask the community for help.

Despite those hiccups, it was a great feeling to finish Part 1. I would encourage anyone who is curious about mainframes to try it out. I am looking forward to getting more challenged as the contest progresses. It’s a great opportunity to understand the powerful core infrastructure on which so much of modern business runs.

Students (ages 13-22) sign up for the Contest:

Adults & non-traditional learners, try the Learning System: