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The Evolution of Thin Client Computing: From Mainframes to Zero Clients. The ancestor of virtualization (the process of running a virtual instance of a computer system in a layer abstracted from the actual hardware) can be traced back to mainframe technology in the 1960's. The rise of thin clients is closely tied to the growth of Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) technologies. The evolution stemmed from the increasing complexity to manage individual workstations one by one for operating system installation and software updates.