Jump off the time machine—or, computers as we know them now

25.02.2016 |

Episode #9 of the course Brief history of computers by Sudeshna Das

 

All right folks! We are done with our detour. We are back to the present time, free from the scare of catching smallpox, and with absolutely no worries about whether the new Coldplay song can fit on our phone.

Computers today are lean, fast, extremely affordable, and as always, ever-changing. The device you are reading this on right now is more powerful than the computer that put Neil Armstrong on the moon. It’s something we take for granted, but if you think about it, it’s crazy stuff.

The general trend right now is to move from traditional computers to smartphones and tabletssmaller devices that work just as well. There was a recent joke that phones these days are cameras, music players, flashlights, and even heartbeat monitors. What’s more, they even let you call people! :D

A specific trend that is catching up fast is eliminating the unnecessary from the devices we use, which are becoming smaller than ever. Companies are urging us not to lug around all our files in a laptopput it in the cloud instead. Need to perform a complex calculation that none of the software on your desktop supports? Instead of installing software, just do it in the cloud.

As we learned yesterday, this “cloud” is nothing but a set of computers that act as if they were just one unit. You download your CV from Google Drivethat’s all you need to know. What you don’t care about is whether that file came from a computer in China or a computer in Nauru. In fact, this is where the term “cloud” comes from. Just as you cannot see what’s behind clouds in the sky, you cannot see where your data originates.

Another interesting way to look at the cloud is by comparing it to electricity. Unless you are in Antarctica, I am pretty sure you don’t produce your own electricity in your personal backyard nuclear power plant. No, you buy it from a company that does it for you. It is the same with the cloud. Instead of carrying around a data storage device in your pocket at all times, you have a company like Amazon or Google do all the work for you. They worry about which technologies to use to keep the data-containing computers running and how not to allow hackers to access that childhood photo of yours in which you are wearing out-of-fashion pants.

That’s it for today. Tomorrow, we will wrap up this course with some really interesting stuff.

Good day to you!

 

Recommended book

“Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution” by Steven Levy

 

Share with friends