Computer Cross Talk: Small computing beasts


In 1965, the cofounder of Intel, Gordon Moore predicted that computing power would double each year. A decade later, Moore revised his assertion by saying that computing power would double every two years. By early 90s, the computing world had agreed that eighteen months was the more realistic doubling period for general computing power.

This is what is called Moore’s Law. It not a strict natural law of physics as gravity; it is some technological prophesy that has come to pass. Moore’s Law death has been predicted many times but the law has been adamant each time. It makes sense that this law should slow down to a halt. As engineers cram millions of transistors into smaller computer chip spaces, time inevitably arrives when the laws of physics mount up road blocks that deter progress. Computer chip designers have always been ingenious in findings detours around the road blocks and Moore’s Law remains ever relentless.

Moore’s Law is as dominant today as it was in the 90s. The ASCI Red is a super computer that was built and owned by US government’s Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative in 1996. At that time, this was the fastest super computer in the world.


The US Government shelled out $55 million to develop this image of lust in terms of computer power. It was massive; one hundred cabinets occupying almost an entire tennis court. The computer could munch one trillion complicated calculations in a mere second without blinking. To achieve this, this computer used Escom power enough to supply to eight hundred homes. To put it mildly, our Escom would have to engage in a massive load shedding before ever tempting to run the ASCI Red Computer.

The US Government needed that much of computing muscle to simulate nuclear tests. The US Army wanted to toy around with nuclear warfare gear without killing any soul and without contriving any existing nuclear treaties. We have so much to thank the US Army for; what we call the internet today is a result of similar ‘computer games’ of the US Army.

In 2011, Apple built a computer lighter and smaller than many magazines. This computer could chomp one trillion complicated calculations in a second. It had a speaker and microphone jack. It came with a front and back cameras. In short, it has eyes and it can see and has ears and it can hear.


That is not all; the tiny computer has GPS receiver, digital compass, accelerometer, gyroscope and a light sensor. It needs no keyboard as it relies on high-definition touch-screen that can track up to eleven points of contact simultaneously. It has receivers that make it an active citizen of both the telephone and Wi-Fi worlds.

This computer only costs US$1,000 and is the iPad-2. It is a tablet, it has ‘legs’ and is mobile. The iPad-2 lasts fourteen days in idle mode from a single charge. Charge ten of them all at once and ESCOM will not even notice.

Moore’s Law has been explained in various ways by many technology scribes, but no one infuses so much life into it as much as Eric McAfee in his book ‘The Second Machine Age’.

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