News Service


Peter Siegel, Academic Information Technology, (515) 294- 3403
Skip Derra, News Service, (515) 294-4917


AMES, Iowa -- In what best can be described as the end of an era, Iowa State University officials have quietly deactivated the last mainframe computer supporting academics.

Earlier this month, the officials deactivated the Hitachi HDS mainframe that provided support to the ISU Library, including its tracking and upkeep of books and card files. The ISU library, like most other ISU departments and colleges, switched over to a "client-server" computer system that offers greater power and much more versatility, said Peter Siegel, director of Academic Information Technology at Iowa State.

"The shutting down of the Hitachi mainframe brings to an end our academic use of mainframe computers," Siegel said. "The mainframe computer was the primary support for campus academic computing from the early 1960s until the early 1980s and provided major support into the 1990s. This is truly an end of an era for mainframes at Iowa State."

Iowa State has used mainframes to support its academic, research and administrative efforts since 1962. But significant increases in the power of microcomputers and workstations, coupled with the advantages of distributed computing and client choice, has made the mainframe a quickly aging technology that is fast seeing its final days of usefulness. Many universities are making the switch to client servers, Siegel said. Iowa State still employs a mainframe to support administrative efforts, where it remains effective, he added.

Siegel said the transfer over to client servers allows users a wider range of services and more convenience. "It truly allows the desk-top computer to be the window to the world where services come to you, rather than you having to go to the service," he said.

Siegel said 400 server systems are currently in operation at Iowa State. These systems provide support for several thousand Windows, Macintosh and UNIX client systems. He added that Iowa State will eventually attempt to sell the Hitachi HDS mainframe.

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