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20 Years of IBM-MAIN

Popular mainframe e-mail forum still running strong

Popular mainframe e-mail forum still running strong

For someone not in the IT field - and the mainframe space specifically - items received from the IBM-MAIN e-mail forum could well be mistaken as spam, if you only read the subject line. With such subjects as "SDSF in Batch," "MIDAW on non-IBM Devices" and "TCPIP - Ping Tool," followed by a lengthy string of responses, it can feel like you've entered a parallel universe where everyone writes in an unknown language.

However, if you're in the know when it comes to all things mainframe, then IBM-MAIN is an indispensable tool for swapping mainframe expertise and problem-solving with people worldwide, a community of experts that's been steadily expanding over two decades.

In June, IBM-MAIN observed its 20th anniversary, with its first official posting going live in June 1986, according to IBM-MAIN originator, Darren Evans-Young, who also works as a lifelong IT guru for the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

"It would be a pretty big exaggeration to say I 'celebrated' the 20th anniversary," says Evans-Young. "It's more accurate to say I kind of 'noticed' it or 'realized' it. It's still nice to think that it's still running after all these years - and not just still running, but still growing, too."

The idea of establishing IBM-MAIN came to Evans-Young after a confluence of events. In 1986, Evans-Young was brought on at the university as a junior systems programmer, where he started working hands-on with the mainframe, and where his main focus was on virtual machine (VM). At the time, there were two LPARs on the system: one dedicated to VM for academic use and the other being dedicated to Multiple Virtual Storage (MVS*) for administrative use. "The idea was that surely there were other people out there experiencing the same issues we were, so it would be nice to be able to connect with them and share their combined expertise to solve problems and resolve issues," he says. "I didn't necessarily think it would become as successful as it has, but I figured there would be at least moderate interest."

To create IBM-MAIN, Evans-Young utilized an e-mail list-management application called LISTSERV, which was available for free at the time. LISTSERV, in turn, became more and more popular for professional and commercial use, eventually giving rise, in 1994, to Landover, Md.-based L-Soft. IBM-MAIN has remained loyal to the LISTSERV application throughout its 20 years of existence.

Ryan Rhodes is a freelance writer for IBM Systems Magazine.

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