A teenager describes his hilarious adventures installing a surplus, 1,500lb mainframe in his parents' basement

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/12/07/three-phase-power.html


Here’s the video, for those interested (maybe the post should be updated with this).


Whoops! Thanks.


Can it run Crysis?


And he now works at IBM.



he uses it to serve/host memes.


It may have cost $350 to buy and refurbish but the guy will probably get a surprise when the next electricity bill comes around.


I really didn’t think I could watch a vid this long on this subject, but it was charming and I actually understood some of the technical detail as I worked at a Salvation Army store trying to refurbish donated computers. It was deeply satisfying. Also, he’s cute so that helped too.


Hey, in the winter time, maybe the basement is the warmest place in the whole house when that beast of a mainframe is switched on!

Might even wanna blow that waste heat upstairs, reduce the load on the house’s HVAC (assuming that there is one).


Man, that takes me back. When I was a teenager I bought (well, received for the cost of picking it up) an IBM Series 1 minicomputer from a local insurance company. It was in a full size 19" rack cabinet along with a rolling side cabinet that housed the (10mb?) removable platter hard drive. If I had half the drive this kid has I’m sure it could have been brought back up and running! Ahh well, it got parted out and some small pieces of it live on today in tchotchkes in the workshop.

I also looked at a pristine PDP 11/70 system, three racks or so in total. I think it was at the Philips Techniglas CRT plant. They were not as fond of my “I won’t charge you to haul it off” offer at the time. Nowadays I’d pay a bunch for that thing!


This guy really is special; I see a wealth of opportunity for him, given his communication skills, relentless curiosity, and capacious intellect.

Regarding the total cost: is it “cheap” to run? I’m pretty sure the power draw and air conditioning required should be factored in.

Same. As a teenager, I had the run of a Data General Nova 3. When it broke, and it would, the repair bills were incredible (DG technicians only, of course). It had huge, bulky 5MB replaceable HD platter (wow!). The IBM PC came out about 2 years later, making the refrigerator-sized Nova just look silly.


This is actually surprising. One of the problems IBM has had with mainframe sales is that they are so good, and so reliable, that a lot of customers use them for over 20 years instead of buying new ones.


IBM tried to sell him on a software license for the latest version of zOS-- $125 per month. So there’s that.

But, the biggest problem that IBM has is persuading people that they need a bigger faster mainframe, instead of a mainframe that still, after many years, does one tiny thing well enough.

plus, there’s hercules,

I get the impression that the mainframe division is akin to a consulting group. Very expensive. Not necessarily more competent than the alternative. But very good at selling themselves to management.

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I was at that presentation. The kid became a hero of that particular SHARE (“it’s not an acronym, it’s what we do”). SHARE is a great organization of IBM customers that covers a lot more than just mainframes. I’ve worked in mainframes for 40 years, and I recommend to young people that learning to do mainframe work can be profitable because there is still a shortage of qualified people.

I can’t remember if the z890 could run Linux, or not - I know that all current models can run many virtual Linux instances using either IBM’s z/VM virtual machine software or the port of KVM.


I’m not surprised at that, for that matter. Absolutely none of my computer courses that I took in high school or college (1980s) involved mainframes (not even the COBOL courses). It seems there was a conscious effort to steer people away from the mainframe world.

One would assume that collecting such technology still is his lifelong passion.

1,500lbs? And my parents complained about my long boxes of comics!


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