Photos: Looking back to the birth of the IBM mainframe

It's 50 years since IBM launched the first System/360 mainframe.

The S/360 was a landmark that marked the arrival of modern computing. It introduced processing techniques that would become commonplace, such as lookahead pipelining, branch prediction, multitasking, memory protection and generalised interrupts. It's a reminder that many architectural tricks used inside chips today date back to before man landed on the moon.

But perhaps more importantly the System/360 achieved the modern reality of a general-purpose computer that could be easily upgraded.

Before the System/360, computers were usually replaced rather than upgraded, as different generations of machines didn't mix. New systems were generally incompatible with older models, with each machine usually relying on a bespoke OS, peripherals and software. Mainframes were also usually designed to tackle a specific task - for example, a particular scientific or commercial job.

The System/360 family of machines were upgradable, sharing software, OS and peripherals and able to tackle a range of workloads - paving the way for the adoption of mainframes throughout the worlds of business, industry and science.


By Nick Heath

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.