The Blogosphere Says the IRS Uses the iSeries to Manage Bill Gates’ Personal Taxes
July 31, 2006 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Maybe they should have renamed the box the IRSeries? While I was searching for something on the Internet, I accidentally ran across a posting in a news blog portion of a site with the unlikely name of Suicide Girls that had a blogger who claimed that the Internal Revenue Service is using an iSeries server to keep track of Microsoft chairman and founder Bill Gates’ tax returns.
The Suicide Girls site is very weird, and I would not suggest that you click on the link below and especially not the site’s home page, while at work. If you want to see the Suicide Girls’ blog and this iSeries-related story, then click here.
You will remember, of course, that Bill Gates claimed earlier this year when he was at an event in Portugal that the IRS has a dedicated computer system to manage his tax returns, which have a few more zeros in them than yours and mine do. At the time, Forbes magazine reported what Gates said as: “Their normal computers can’t deal with the numbers. So I am constantly getting these notices telling me I haven’t paid something, when really it is just on the wrong computer.”
The only reason I bring this up, of course, is that I found it odd that someone out there in the blogosphere seems to believe that the iSeries is the very computer that Gates was talking about. (The blogger had the handle Adroitbeing and claimed to be from the Cook Islands). This is what she had to say: “This is actually funnier than one might think. Largely the IRS rely on AS/400 and iSeries (now called System i5) boxes running multiple operating systems–RPG, OS/400, COBOL, and AIX. Not surprisingly, in other news, Microsoft has undertaken marketing and sales efforts to encourage users of AS/400 iSeries to migrate to Windows Server. Perhaps this is Bill’s personal sales effort.”
Well, that sounds pretty informed, right down to the name changes. But there is no way of knowing for sure. The IRS doesn’t talk about its computer systems much, after decades of failed modernization attempts, but according to this document detailing a recent security audit on the IRS systems, which was not very flattering, the agency is using a mix of mainframe, Unix, and Windows machines. The IRS has confirmed that the crashing machine Gates referred to was not a Windows box, but did not say what kind it was.
The other reason I decided to mention this tiny item on the Suicide Girls site was that the fact that such a posting exists on a vaguely pornographic site shows the downside of the “viral marketing” techniques that some IBMers want to use to push the OS/400 platform. I think it is better to focus on price/performance of the OS/400 platform and less on the side-show circus performance out there on the Internet. Having said that, I have a feeling that more people saw the iSeries name on the Suicide Girls site than they did in the Wall Street Journal.