Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Cray in Every Home

When I was a teenager, computers weren’t all that common. Most people were considered celebrities just for having a working VCR, let alone having a computer at home.

We’re talking the 1980’s, when Atari, Apple and Commodore were the big names in home computing. This is back in the days, when the most complicated thing a home computer could reasonably be expected to do, was let you do a mail merge.

Times have certainly changed – I recently saw one of the big box electronic stores selling home entertainment servers. Yes servers – not just a standard computer – a server for someone with a home network.

WOW! It used to be that only companies had servers – a dedicated computer to maintain a complex filing system of data and/or programs.

To think that servers are now becoming common enough in the home, that people can go to their local computer store and just pick one off the shelf, is revolutionary.

It isn’t uncommon for people to have their own home network – as people continuously buy new computers, they keep their old ones and give them to their kids. So an older computer may be handed down to a son or daughter. Using wireless routers, all of these computers can easily be given access to the same Internet connection, creating a small local network.

So the next logical step is to have a server in the home, one where everyone sharing the network, can access the same files, without having to copy those files to their own machines.

Still, the concept is amazing for me to see, as I remember the old days, when you went to someone’s home and saw an Atari ST or Atari SE and said – WOW, you have a COMPUTER!!!

These days, if someone doesn’t have a computer, you wonder how on earth the survive. Who can live without email, instant messaging, and constant access to pointless videos on YouTube?

It’s almost as if we’ve all graduated from the old days of the IBM PCjr (my first computer) and now have Cray’s in our homes. The Cray was the world’s first super computer – it filled an entire room, took several nuclear generators worth of electric power to run, and made lots of noise.

With servers now becoming common in the home, we have in a sense all graduated to having our own super computers at home. Only – thankfully – they don’t fill an entire room, cause the lights to go dim when flipped on, and rarely make too much noise.

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