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The Computer Guy Is Here!: Mainframe Mechanic

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Way back in the last century, back in the 1960s, computers were mammoth mysterious machines. They were immensely expensive yet became essential to daily business operations. Yet, no one ever saw them. Security dictated they be hidden away. Only the computer operators were allowed access. These were the important people who actually made the computer do useful work. On the Way back in the last century, back in the 1960s, computers were mammoth mysterious machines. They were immensely expensive yet became essential to daily business operations. Yet, no one ever saw them. Security dictated they be hidden away. Only the computer operators were allowed access. These were the important people who actually made the computer do useful work. On the other hand, these knowledgeable operators knew absolutely nothing of the technology behind the covers. Whenever a problem arose, there was no choice but to call the Computer Guy. Frantically a supervisor would place a call for service. Then wait. And wait. Little could be done without the computer running. Finally! At long last, someone would yell out, “The computer guy is here!” Following a brief greeting, the thankful supervisor immediately wanted to know how long it would take to get the computer running again. So, with everyone anxiously looking over his shoulder, the computer guy set about his business of determining the cause and finding a solution to the problem. Clearly a stressful situation. Yet this was only a minor portion of an essential career from the early days of the Computer Era. The Computer Guys were the Field Engineers who installed, maintained and repaired those old mainframe computers. Their place in technological history is finally documented.


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Way back in the last century, back in the 1960s, computers were mammoth mysterious machines. They were immensely expensive yet became essential to daily business operations. Yet, no one ever saw them. Security dictated they be hidden away. Only the computer operators were allowed access. These were the important people who actually made the computer do useful work. On the Way back in the last century, back in the 1960s, computers were mammoth mysterious machines. They were immensely expensive yet became essential to daily business operations. Yet, no one ever saw them. Security dictated they be hidden away. Only the computer operators were allowed access. These were the important people who actually made the computer do useful work. On the other hand, these knowledgeable operators knew absolutely nothing of the technology behind the covers. Whenever a problem arose, there was no choice but to call the Computer Guy. Frantically a supervisor would place a call for service. Then wait. And wait. Little could be done without the computer running. Finally! At long last, someone would yell out, “The computer guy is here!” Following a brief greeting, the thankful supervisor immediately wanted to know how long it would take to get the computer running again. So, with everyone anxiously looking over his shoulder, the computer guy set about his business of determining the cause and finding a solution to the problem. Clearly a stressful situation. Yet this was only a minor portion of an essential career from the early days of the Computer Era. The Computer Guys were the Field Engineers who installed, maintained and repaired those old mainframe computers. Their place in technological history is finally documented.

28 review for The Computer Guy Is Here!: Mainframe Mechanic

  1. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    When John Sak began his training with IBM as a young college drop out, instructors informed his class that the only constant they could expect from their careers was change. Their jobs would probably not exist before they retired. Sak entered the field when mechanical tabulating machines with some electrical work were giving way to electronic computing units, and ‘continuing ed’ would be a staple of his career at IBM as computers, printers, and computer-driven devices continued to advance. By th When John Sak began his training with IBM as a young college drop out, instructors informed his class that the only constant they could expect from their careers was change. Their jobs would probably not exist before they retired. Sak entered the field when mechanical tabulating machines with some electrical work were giving way to electronic computing units, and ‘continuing ed’ would be a staple of his career at IBM as computers, printers, and computer-driven devices continued to advance. By the time he retired, smaller desktop computers were supplanting the closet towers and basement behemoths. The mainframes Sak and company serviced, of course, were not simply larger and slower versions of PC towers. Although by the end of his career many devices accepted instructions via keyboards and the like , as a younger engineer instructions were fed into computers via stacks of punched IBM cards, with the patterns giving the machine different instructions. Refer to a disk drive today and most may think of a hard disk or a DVD disc, but the unit covered here is the size of a washing machine. The book is a memoir rather than a personal history, but Sak’s stories cover the many various aspects of field engineers’ work and the IBM culture. Saks and his colleagues weren’t just repairmen, called out to replace or fix faulty mechanisms; they also analyzed new equipment in the field and compared notes to determine if there was a design flaw that could be corrected, or weaknesses which could be improved. This memoir of life as an IBM field engineer combines a few profiles of odd characters with accounts of diagnosing problems, along the way explaining how older room-sized devices operated. (One model, only discontinued in 2005, ran for just over 40 feet and was devoted to letter-sorting.) Computing has had an amazing history so far, and I greatly appreciated Sak's account of its boom years.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jim and Ellen Belesiu

    It was nice read and gave me a nice insight being behind the scenes at IBM back in the day when they were on top. While being a service engineer wasn't always glamourous, I very much enjoyed hearing about the friendships and bonds made between "the computer guy" and the customers. I don't think we have that anymore. It also made me a bit sad knowing that we once had an amazing domestic technology infrastructure. Oh well, nothing good lasts forever. It was nice read and gave me a nice insight being behind the scenes at IBM back in the day when they were on top. While being a service engineer wasn't always glamourous, I very much enjoyed hearing about the friendships and bonds made between "the computer guy" and the customers. I don't think we have that anymore. It also made me a bit sad knowing that we once had an amazing domestic technology infrastructure. Oh well, nothing good lasts forever.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Edward N. Rodgers

    Nostalgia! Those were the days! When life was good, the job was fulfilling and the world made sense. Too bad it’s gone.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mineen

  5. 4 out of 5

    Bill Matthews

  6. 5 out of 5

    charles

  7. 4 out of 5

    John A. Jones

  8. 5 out of 5

    richard pagani

  9. 4 out of 5

    David Stewart

  10. 5 out of 5

    Anthony Brannan

  11. 5 out of 5

    Glenn Burns

  12. 4 out of 5

    Linda S. Clippard

  13. 5 out of 5

    Paul Paradigm

  14. 4 out of 5

    SAMBA DRAME

  15. 4 out of 5

    Thiti Kanchanda

  16. 4 out of 5

    Joshua Loong

  17. 5 out of 5

    a

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Knight

  19. 5 out of 5

    Harry Gerace

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tony Lapczynski

  21. 4 out of 5

    George Scheffer

  22. 4 out of 5

    Claudio Pantaleo

  23. 5 out of 5

    Susan Lewis

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey DeMent

  25. 5 out of 5

    Michael Shergold

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jim Felder

  27. 5 out of 5

    Momjac Jac

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ras Salassie

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