Finding the Death of the Mainframe

Stewart Alsop, editor for Infoworld magazine in the 1990s eating his words, “Death to the Mainframe,” 2001 (via Computer History Museum)

I came across a blog post discussing the 50th anniversary of the IBM System/360, and it mentioned a prediction about the so-called “death of the mainframe.”

I had seen the photo before, of Stewart Alsop literally eating his words “Death to the Mainframe” with a knife and fork, but I had not seen the original quote in print, and I couldn’t find a citation.

Alsop’s Wikipedia page is in disrepair, and the quotation listed there didn’t have a proper citation — neither did the image at the Computer History Museum.

Back issues of InfoWorld magazine are online at Google Books, but searches there were not helpful. I kept finding references to the prediction, but not the original statement itself.

Then I happened across this forum discussion about the “Death of the Mainframe” on Google Groups, and one of the members noted that the original statement did not happen in the InfoWorld magazine, but at a conference.

The first reference in print to the death of the mainframe by Alsop is in the February 22, 1993 issue of InfoWorld magazine on page 4. The article reads:

Last week, we held the second InfoWorld Editorial EXPOsure, where 35 vendors from the Northwest showed hot new products to 26 of our editors and reporters and more than 70 of our readers (plus an odd assortment of other insiders and cognoscenti).

We also had a fun panel featuring columnists Cheryl Currid and Brian Livingston, along with four of our staff. The panel gave a lively discussion about the role of the mainframe in future information systems. I predicted that the last mainframe will be unplugged on March 15, 1996.

Alsop predicted the last mainframe would be unplugged in 1996 – InfoWorld, February 22, 1993.

[citation] Alsop, Stewart. “Microsoft’s Hermes: key network management system or myth?” Distributed Thinking, InfoWorld magazine. February 22, 1993. page 4.