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May 22, 2009

The i Cult

By Tami Deedrick

I recently ran across an article online that caught my eye. “True believers: The biggest cults in tech” counted down seven technologies that have captured an entire group of people. I was hooked. The i community is so strong, I wondered if we’d make the list.

Well, we did.

The entry is rather humorous:

Tech cult No. 6: Monks of the Midrange
Established: 1960
Gathering of the tribes: Common 2009
Major deity: Dr. Frank Soltis
Holy scriptures: The IBM Redbook
Sacred relic: Original AS/400

Like their elder brethren devoted to IBM mainframes, the monks of IBM’s midrange systems congregate to celebrate the IBM i, iSeries, i5/OS, AS/400 and related solutions, says Randy Dufault, president of the Common Users Group. Although the group traces its history back to the day vacuum tubes vanished from modern computers, it still boasts more than 4,000 members, who meet annually to keep the power systems flame alive.

Dufault says the cult’s bizarre rituals include chanting “Market the ‘i’!” whenever other IBMers are around, checking the Web site to see if IBM has changed the system’s name again, and making regular pilgrimages to Rochester, Minn., birthplace of the Application System/400 family.

You can identify midrange monks by the way they’re always collecting paper handouts from presentations, storing them for decades, and never looking at them until their spouse threatens to throw them all away, says Dufault. “Then they look through them and store them in another place until the spouse finds them again, usually in another five to seven years.”

Although cultlike in their devotion, Commoners are both collaborative and flexible, says Dufault, and willing to incorporate newer technologies like AIX and Linux into their ancient beliefs.

 So how does it feel to be part of one of the biggest cults in technology? I have a feeling many of you will wear the label with pride. 


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