IBM Systems Magazine, Mainframe Edition - November/December 2010 - (Page 48)

Stop Run An eclectic take on the mainframe world Jim Bell plays jazz with the Jim Bell trio. Play that File Former IBMer Jim Bell finds inspiration in music By Sara Aase hen Jim Bell interviewed for his first job at IBM in 1959, he was asked about his hobbies. “I like to play music,” said Bell. first major mainframe applications—a process he likened to writing a piece of music: They both required the ability to see new possibilities, new ways of solving a problem. “I’ve always felt a definite relationship between those thought processes.” Over his 40-year career with IBM, Bell created an interface between IMS*, a hierarchical database first developed for the Apollo space program, and Telecommunications Access Method (TCAM), which linked the database with terminals. He also worked on the job forwarding program (JFP), the first application that made it possible for computers in one location to send jobs to another. “I’m an inventive kind of guy,” says Bell, who as a kid enjoying taking apart his dad’s radios to see how they worked. “I like to tinker around with new ideas, and IBM gave me the opportunity to put that tinkering to use in really productive work.” Bell’s worlds came together in the late ’80s when he became a manager in IBM’s mult imed ia sof t ware depa r t ment and patented t he first method for musical instrument digital interface (MIDI) file translation. Synthesizers, keyboards, drum machines and computers communicate through MIDI. But Bell and his coworkers realized there was no way to automate playback of music files. “We came up with a means for specifying that, for instance, program number 29 will always be trombone.” His invention quickly became a standard. After ret ir ing in 1991, Bell continued to work as an IBM contractor for several years. He still builds websites for a few clients, still performs every couple of months. From an electronic recording studio in his home in Saint Helena, Calif., he composes music for jazz combos and has written a complete five-part symphony. Music, that constant, still pushes him. “It’s my life’s dream to have it played by a real orchestra.” PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF JIM BELL W Picture this: It’s post-World War II Pittsburgh. On a smoky stage in Italian working-class neighborhoods, this 25-year-old musician is playing jazz piano with pals like Bobby Vinton. He is ex-Air Force, with three years in Okinawa. He’s heard a rumor that if he’s lucky enough to be hired, IBM will pay for his engineering degree. “You’re gonna give that up, aren’t you?” the interviewer asked. Back then, the image of a musician didn’t match that of a corporate man. “Of course I lied,” Bell recalls. “Music has been the one constant in my life, since I was 4 years old.” He got the job. By the 1970s, Bell had worked his way up from punch-system repairman to systems engineer. A big project with Westinghouse got enough attention to move Bell, his wife and three children out to a big software division in Palo Alto, Calif. “I looked around, saw palm trees and the Pacific Ocean and thought, ‘What am I doing in Pittsburgh?’” In Palo Alto, Bell programmed some of IBM’s Sara Aase is a Minneapolisbased freelance writer. 48 NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2010

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of IBM Systems Magazine, Mainframe Edition - November/December 2010

IBM Systems Magazine, Mainframe Edition - November/December 2010
On the Web
Editor's Desk: Tradition Takes Planning
Dashboard: Walk While You Work
Data Display: All About Spam
Think Smarter: IBM Offers Smarter Systems for Performance and Scalability
Trends: Rosamilia Oversees Both System z and Power Systems Lines as New GM
Break Through Economics: Dr. Howard Rubin Discusses Mainframe Efficiencies and the zEnterprise System
Streamlining Development: IBM Rational on zEnterprise System Utilizes Multiplatform Development Capabilities
Administrator: The zEnterprise System Changes Firewall Requirements
Technical Corner: z/OS Predictive Failure Analysis Make It Easy to Spot and Fix Soft System Failures
Developer: Native XML Support Strengthens DB2 and COBOL Development
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Stop Run: Former IBMer Jim Bell Finds Inspiration in Music

IBM Systems Magazine, Mainframe Edition - November/December 2010