Mainframes 360
The one stop destination for System Z professionals

Saturday, August 25, 2012

How do I learn Mainframe Programming?

I'm a newbie...
Programming can be great fun... That sheer joy of crafting something! The fascination of working with gadgets... programming them, watching them work! The first time I loaded songs into my iPod, I was overjoyed. What's more, being nerd is supercool!

If you are a budding System Z programmer, get started with the machine itself - the mainframe computer. Learn how the mainframe computer works and acquaint yourself with TSO commands. To execute/run programs on the mainframe, you must create a job. A job has information on the program to execute, the input file names that hold data, the output file names that shall store processed information etcetera.
Jobs are set up such that, they are designed to run without any manual intervention. These computer jobs are scripted/coded in Job Control Language (JCL). Master JCL and you should be able to execute jobs.

Practical MVS JCL authored by James G. Janossy is a very handy book that you must have in your back-pocket. This book not only discusses the fundamental concepts, but also has a plethora of examples that apply these concepts and you can practise them on the mainframe.


After some work and understanding, you must begin learning a high-level language like Cobol, PL/I, RPG/400 and others that execute on the System Z. As a software engineer, you must be able to solve a scientific or business problem by mapping it to a computational framework. If you do not know how to program yet, you will need to find a language - like Scheme. I'd recommend starting at the low level first, study how problems can be abstracted and thought in different ways.

To many people who are thrown to work at a mainframe computer on their first job, they feel lost. Mainframe people seem to speak a completely different language and that doesn't make life easy. What's more, the books and manuals are incredibly hard to comprehend.

"What on earth is a Mainframe?" is an absolute beginner's guide to mainframe computers. We'll introduce you to the hardware and peripherals. We'll talk about the operating system, the software installed on a mainframe. We'll also talk about the different people who work on a mainframe. In a nutshell, we'll de-mystify the mainframe.

Readers based in India, can buy the e-book for Rs. 50 only or the print book. International readers based in the US and other countries can click here to purchase the e-book.