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Computing (FOLDOC) dictionary (also found in English - English (Wordnet), )
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computer A term originally referring to the cabinet
containing the central processor unit or "main frame" of a
room-filling Stone Age batch machine. After the emergence
of smaller "minicomputer" designs in the early 1970s, the
traditional big iron machines were described as "mainframe
computers" and eventually just as mainframes. The term
carries the connotation of a machine designed for batch rather
than interactive use, though possibly with an interactive
time-sharing operating system retrofitted onto it; it is
especially used of machines built by IBM, Unisys and the
other great dinosaurs surviving from computing's StoneAge.
It has been common wisdom among hackers since the late 1980s
that the mainframe architectural tradition is essentially dead
(outside of the tiny market for number crunching
supercomputers (see Cray)), having been swamped by the
recent huge advances in integrated circuit technology and
low-cost personal computing. As of 1993, corporate America is
just beginning to figure this out - the wave of failures,
takeovers, and mergers among traditional mainframe makers have
certainly provided sufficient omens (see dinosaurs mating).
Supporters claim that mainframes still house 90% of the data
major businesses rely on for mission-critical applications,
attributing this to their superior performance, reliability,
scalability, and security compared to microprocessors.