The future of our hobby (was Re: ImageDisk project is canceled)
Sean 'Captain Napalm' Conner
spc at conman.org
Wed Dec 28 23:17:47 CST 2005
It's taken me several days to mull on this and the inevitable progression
of computers. Anyway, the subject line only comes up rather deep into this
reply to Tony about his "I don't replace boards" stance:
It was thus said that the Great Tony Duell once stated:
> > 2. (might as well ask, as long as I'm asking) I know you dislike
> > the whole "board swap" mentality and that you prefer replacing
> > blown chips over replacing a whole board. But why not repair those
> > non-functioning chips? I mean, one blown gate and you toss the
> I am not sure anyone can repair a chip. Are you suggesting I start moving
> atoms around to correct the wrong doping levels, oxided metal traces, etc?
The first computers were designed and built out of discreet components,
which gave away to integrated circuits. Not only did it become cheaper to
build computers, but easier as well, but I'm sure there were guys out there
who ridiculed those that couldn't hack a computer with discreet compoments.
"What? You have to replace an *entire* chip because a single transitor
inside blew?" they might say. "How can you detect which chip is bad? With
components, I can place probes *anywhere*, trace the fault down to the
precise transistor and relatively quickly replace it. See?"
But over time, the nature of a "component" changed yet again, this time to
a larger unit---the card (or motherboard). The functional units are now
larger. Whereas there are multiple companies that make a quad two-input
NAND 7400, there are also multiple companies that produce (or rather,
produced) two port serial cards for the PC. Sure, it's may be just as easy
to replace a chip as a card, but then again, it should be easy to replace a
blown gate, right?
The 7400 chip is documented to work under certain conditions, with these
inputs and output. Just as a two port serial card for the PC is documented
to work with the ports at such-n-such address with so-n-so IRQ and what not
(or else, not many people will buy the thing).
Discreet components -> IC -> boards -> computers
> >  Or in other words---the "components" in today's computers are bigger
> > than yesterday's computers. Right now, the "components" are
> > boards/cards and I can certainly see it being whole computers
> Maybe to you, but it's not happened here yet.
"Here" being your house? Or England? Because it's certainly a reality
here in the States, and I can name one company that does this as a standard
operating proceedure---Google  (heck, even the company I work for does
that to some degree).
With 60,000 machines  it's probably more cost effective to let the
machines die and work around them than to attempt to fix them (they probably
do pull the dead machines, but only if there are enough to justify the
expense of doing so).
Even more amazing, Google is going further---not only does it consider a
computer a mere component to be replaced, they're trying to make *data
centers* a component!  A 40'x8'x8' data center, ready to be shipped
anywhere in the world, the ultimate in plug-n-play.
And thus we come to the subject line. In 10 years time (or heck, say 20)
when Google starts to decomission some of these "data center containers" for
pennies (maybe even mills ) on the dollar, what are we to make of such a
system? It's about the size of the early computers, but with *way* more
functionality and equipment. And its components are today's commodity PCs
running a commodity operating system. Maybe we should start saving those
Wintel boxes after all ...
-spc (The technical specs on Google are very interesting ... )
 Ever since the early 90s I've felt that there were no more systems
for a hacker (in the good, exploratory sense) to get into. TOPS-10,
TOPS-20, ITS, heck, even VMS, were all dead or seriously on the
decline, with the only multiuser systems left running Unix (how
boring). It wasn't until last year I realized that there *is* a
system that I would love to get into and play around with---Google.
Sure, it's built on top of Linux, but only because it's easier that
 1/10 of a cent.
More information about the cctalk