[vcf-midatlantic] an unexpected mainframe experience

Richard Cini rich.cini at gmail.com
Fri Aug 17 13:03:22 EDT 2018

I love stories like that. I'm a banker at a nationally-recognized financial institution and plant visits are always my favorite. Sometimes the plant people know what their building for; some don't. But they take enormous pride in what they do and they love to talk to people about their jobs. I love that.

Rich Cini

On 8/17/18, 12:46 PM, "vcf-midatlantic on behalf of Dave McGuire via vcf-midatlantic" <vcf-midatlantic-bounces at lists.vcfed.org on behalf of vcf-midatlantic at lists.vcfed.org> wrote:

      Earlier this week, I traveled to a large factory in a small, sleepy
    town in western NY.  One of my clients is having some equipment built
    there, and he asked me to help resolve a production problem with a
    control board.  What he's having built there is not computer related.
    The factory is a contract manufacturer; they make things for many
    different customers, primarily doing metal fabrication and coatings.
      When I walked out onto the production floor, I very nearly tripped
    over my own feet when I saw this:
      Now, it was first thing in the morning (I'm not built for mornings,
    I'm up at the crack of noon most of the time) and I hadn't slept all
    that well in the hotel, but I knew damn well that those were,
    unmistakably, front doors for IBM z14 mainframes.
      In the course of my work addressing my client's control board problem,
    I had a bit of time during which I was waiting for one thing or another,
    so I chatted with the staff a bit.  It turns out that this company has
    been making racks and doors for IBM for decades.  Somewhat
    embarrassingly, several people gathered around me excitedly when the
    word spread that there was a visitor in the building who actually works
    on the machines for which they build the enclosures.  They all knew they
    were making stuff for IBM, and that they were for some big computer
    thing, but most of them were very confused about what they really were.
    ("How is THAT a computer?  Where's the mouse?")
      These folks were fascinated to hear about where the big metal racks
    and doors they build and paint eventually end up.  I told them a bit
    about what the machines are, how they work, and what they're used for.
    They all listened with great interest, and some were very excited about
    it.  They told me their stories too...they remembered every model number
    ("Hey Mary, do you remember the z890 with that beautiful copper trim on
    the front?" "Oh yes Jim, I loved that one!") and they told great stories
    about the fun they'd had building them all.
      Interestingly, the front and back doors of the machines are shipped
    straight from that factory to the customer when a mainframe is ordered.
    IBM never sees them.  So there's great trust there, because those doors
    have to be flawless.  The frames and racks get sent to IBM in
    Poughkeepsie to be built out, but the doors go straight from this
    factory out to the customer every time IBM sells a mainframe.
      I was asked to be very careful about what I say about what I saw
    there, but I will say this: There were A LOT of z14 doors being made
    there.  Many people believe that the production volume of these machines
    is small.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Seriously, I was
      I'm told there was a "secret area" in another part of the building
    where they're making chassis for prototypes and machines that haven't
    been released yet; I wasn't allowed to see that.  Overall the access
    control there was pretty tight.  I wasn't allowed to take many pictures,
    those that I did take were carefully audited by my escort, and some were
    deleted.  They take their customers' security very seriously there, but
    they were still human beings, people who love their jobs (pretty unusual
    in this day and age), many of whom had worked there for decades.  They
    take great pride in the things that they build there, and there was a
    universal feeling that they wondered where it all eventually went, and a
    hope that they'd gotten the machines off to a good start.
      It was a wonderful experience that I will not soon forget.
    Dave McGuire, AK4HZ
    New Kensington, PA

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