Sunday, June 07, 2009

Millions of Billions (not talk about mere money)...

Millions and Billions, (not "McDonalds"), indeed Billions of Trillions... countless Quadrillions! Let us talk about the "Digital Revolution".

Credit where credit is due, "
kudos" go to Silicon Valley! I was a priviledged participant during its earliest days... The Digital Revolution is still changing "life as we knew it".

Increasingly, we live in a world of (technological) moving targets which have no moving parts. They move fast. It has also become a world of superlatives, because World Records change almost "faster" than CHANGE, itself. Literally? (At "
light speed" that is provably true, albeit that I may have to "invent" the language of "time" itself to do so ...but we shall speak of "Time & Relativity" another day).

Personal Computing" has become a truly great gift to all Humanity (having come to useful fruition in less than a lifetime). One has to wonder about the past... How did motivated people (for whom passion, was an omni-present thirst for knowledge) keep-track of their work-in-progress? Anyone who "hungers" for KNOWLEDGE also has a gigantic "data management" problem to solve. Such can be a daunting organizational task.

For the sake of this dialogue - just imagine what the most celebrated "Minds" of the past could have done with computing devices placed at their disposition (24 X 7)! The comparison renders their myriad accomplishments all the more amazing.

I shall pause in silence, momentarily humbled by that thought...


I've been PRIVILEDGED to know quite a few people who "thirst" and who "hunger"... Almost all of them have seen their lives become inexorably intertwined with a daily usage of computing machines.

My first contact with digital computation was back in 1970-71. I was an undergrad at a
private college. The Physics Lab had just taken delivery on a "table-top" calculator. SHARP produced a unit that had a 16-digit, alpha-numeric display in the form of "Nixie" tubes (those formed orange-colored characters: 0-9, A-to-Z, +, -, /, *, and a "period" to represent decimal displacements). It weighed-in at about 30 pounds (14 kilos). The cost in 1970's US Dollars, was about $18,000.

Everyone who was mathematically inclined, wanted to try-out the Physlab's "new", "brain-toy". In no time, students were obliged to sign-up and stand in line, to get a "time-slot" (the machine was very much in-demand - at saturation over-night). Digital computation at a personal level, was an instant success all around the World.

Philosophically, in my lifetime (age 58, Sep'09) we've gone from a society of the HAVES and HAVE-NOTS - to a society of THOSE-WHO-KNOW and THOSE-WHO-KNOW-NOT. Sadly, we still have an Elite, the dwindling Middle-class, and many more Poor. But we have a growing number of people "who know"! Power to the People?

Knowledge empowers. Knowledge is power.

Most importantly: to remember, is to know!

Those who have access to knowledge (and LOTS of it), can be profoundly EMPOWERED by it. This has held true for the knowledge itself - MASSIVE amounts of KNOWLEDGE! The creators of the ancient
Library of Alexandria, Egypt would certainly revel at the formidable amount of information that has become available: from almost anywhere, to almost anyone (e.g. GOOGLE and its competitive peers). The experience has expanded as an exponential, thanks to the dynamics of binary engines.

To Mr.
Babbage, a hats-off... To Mr. Boole, a bow.

From a purely economic perspective: it is an AMAZING fact that ANYONE can purchase (at almost ANY consumer
electronics store), powerful computing machines for under $1000 (2009 US Dollars). The consumer can easily add data storage, in 1, 2, or 3-Terabyte increments (and for under $250 retail). That reality is utterly STUNNING by the standards of 1970. Such capability was literally unimaginable, back in those days. Indeed, no one foresaw what was coming in its entirety. More is on the way.

Speaking of Terabytes, is the "
Hubble" telescope back on-line? A whole Universe awaits us!

We can all be pleased to be alive at this time in the history of mankind. The experience leaves the mind to wander and to wonder, "What will come next to revolutionize our world?" What will be the REALITY in 10, or 100, or 1000, or even 10000 years? How long will we endure as a species? Or, will all of mankind's endeavors be for naught? Excuse me, I've diverged...

Who wouldn't like to live on? Who wouldn't want to see MORE of what is "yet to come"? Would we be overwhelmed? Would we recognize that world? Me Thinks that all of us alive today, would be overcome with awe... Nothing of our world would remain. Nothing would still be recognizable. We are certain to be superseded.

It's in the cards...

My almost "
100-year-young" Mother has seen incredible change, and yet...

I for one, think FORWARD in terms of
POSITIVES. I foresee almost unlimited progress (KNOWLEDGE) ahead - to satiate those who thirst onwards within a mindset of the intellectually famished.

Notradamus was wrong, and Armageddon is NOT coming (well, not just yet).

As some of my readers know, I operate two hi-tech businesses
[1] [2] from a home office (with "Greening" in mind, I go to the cities as little as possible). My primary MEDIA SERVER is as much of a "play-thing" as it is a "work horse" - a dray, a "French Percheron"? It's VERY "paperless" ...all muscle!

Across the past few months, I've transferred volumes of binary data from 1100 (legal) music CD's (I've about 250 more to go.) There are now 8,275
MP3 music files online. I'm now looking forward to a similar "mini-project" -- that of, transcribing aging 33-RPM records, Then I plan to repair and replicate my father's (far older) 78's -- converting those into WAV files (so I can burn CD's of the 78's for family). Then, I shall treat myself to a "retro"-fest, listening to my 33's (digitally corrected) as MP3's, of course.

That server (one of several in my home) now has 375,000 files of PIX, photos, music (MP3,
MIDI, sheet music, S3M, MOD, etc), references, navigation maps, antique maps, e-Books, dictionaries, encyclopedias, bi-lingual dictionaries, thesaurus, books on math, physics, biology, anthropology, astronomy, chemistry, botany, paleontology, and more... including a "backup" (duplicate) of my 20,000-name genealogy -- and all the related (pun), accumulated documents.

The data can be accessed by ANY computer recognized (as "safe") within my network. The files can be READ (only), not WRITTEN. The only way to "write" to the server, is to TRANSFER files into a TEMP folder, or to add them directly from CD's or DVD's. It's a SUPER secure setup, as you would imagine. Firewall, anti-spy, anti-virus, anti-SPAM ...a "meal" in and of itself?

What is AMAZING is that (of the 1.0 Tera bytes available from that server), only 168 Gigs have been used. If I combine ALL of the storage that I have on my network (adding-in the storage of computers that are turned-off, or stored), I have about 2.75 Tera bytes -- all to myself (and my 11-year old son). That's 2.75 Thousand Billion! or Two Trillion, Seven Hundred and Fifty BILLION.

The BIG numbers cease to sink-in at some stage... ("whopper" sounds good, or "gigantic").

My network is composed of about 20 Million files. I had to become very organized, to say the least.

For the GEEK in you (my reader), a new world record was set in November last year (2008): the first computing machines in the world broke the
PETA-flop boundary. The IBM "Roadrunner" barely managed to cling to the top spot, fending off a challenge from the Cray "Jaguar". But both competitors broke Peta-flop speeds, performing 1.105 and 1.059 QUADRILLION floating-point calculations per second, the first two computers to do so.

A quadrillion? Yes. If I had that many pennies, I could (literally) buy the USA and most of the planet. That's one thousand-million-million (or, one-million-billion) -- i.e. ten to the fifteenth power. Mere pocket change? No mere talk about money. It's called, "number crunching".

Back in 1970, I had just "aced" a college course in "Slide rule". As a backup, I need to locate my "counting frame" (abacus)? It's here -- somewhere... in the meantime, my 1974 Hewlett Packard, HP-21 still serves me quite nicely. Whereas, my all-magnesium, "
Pickett Scientific" (slide rule) has become an antique...

Just like like me.
Me Thinks.

P.S. My first true "personal computer" was one of my own manufacture ...a "home-brew" machine built upon "
Cromemco" electronic S-100 "guts". That was way back in 1975-78. As of this writing, I have more than 75 modern computers at my beck 'N call. Four of the fastest, run GIMPS calculations all day, every day discover new Prime Numbers (number theory), just for fun! Doesn't everybody? Dih-dih-dih-dah! The the letter "V" in Morse Code (the Roman Numeral for "5"), the opening phrase to Beethoven's 5th, or 0001, as per Boole - and the "Rain Man" knows all of that. "Hi Kim!"


Anonymous said...

Interesting post.

The power of the computer and of the internet is mind boggling and it has changed the life of everyone on the planet.

I have been without a home computer for some time due to many reasons. At first I was going through "computer withdrawals." Now, I'm use to it. I go to the library in my town once or twice a week and use the free computers or, like today I'm visiting a friends for a few days and they generously let me use their computer.

At this point in my life it is OK. I hope to get a new computer in a few months as I miss the ability to pay bills online, email, etc. I find that I am doing other interesting things when I would have been in front of the computer.

There is nothing like curling up with a good book or picking up the phone and calling a friend rather than emailing. New technology is wonderful, but I miss going through the old card catalogs at the library or knowing the name of the bank teller or pouring though encyciopedias to learn about something. All things of the past, along with slide rulers.

I'm getting too nostaigic.

Now, if I could just trash the TV I would be much better off.

QMANN said...

If you are not far from SE Wisconsin, I can GIVE you one... I "inherit" used equipment from my customers (all the time). I recycle "dead" parts, then rebuild using everything that is "live" - then refurbish the ensemble to working condition. Have donated 20 in the past year - usually to motivated Jr High or High School kids from families who can't afford to buy... The local math, chemistry, physics teachers coordinate the gifting for me - and I remain the annonymous donor.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the offer. That was very generous of you.

I'm in rural Indiana so it won't work. I'll get one soon enough. I know just what I want.

Yesterday I sat down and wrote a letter to an elderly relative. Snail mail. What a concept. I know he will get a kick out of it.

Want my TV? It's a big screen!!


QMANN said...

Well, I've a 42" HDTV 1080i tied to: Dish-Network (has their biggest DVR), Charter-Cable, an HP Pavilion computer, a BlueRay player, a DVD player, a CD, player, VHS deck, surround sound, and my network media server - via WiFi wireless. Me Thinks, that we've SURELY managed to forget 'something'. It even displays the Caller-ID of incoming calls. Nothing TOO techie... (giggle).