Eating the Apple

Eve did it. Adam did it. Now it's my turn to take a bite. Why not? Hey! It's delicious.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Google and All That

I started my career working for a computer manufacturer working for a computer in the days when the leading edge technology was core memory. For those of you too young to remember, women used to spend hours stringing tiny wired through donut-shaped ferrite cores.

My company did not offer communications networks back then. It sold products that allowed two computers the ability to talk to each other over leased or dial-up phone lines. The internet wasn't even a dream in anyone's eyes.

Later I worked for a minicomputer vendor who offered multi-user business systems. A file with 10,000 records was a big file for that machine.

Time and again I have been amazed by many improvements in computer technology. Not only that, I have flabbergasted by the speed that new innovations take root, and by the cost of computing has dropped.

IBM's first PC had a clock rate of 4.77 megaherz at a cost of about $5000 without disk memory. Today I am using a $700 laptop with a clock speed of 1500 megaherz, more than 300 times faster. And improvements in computer CPU incresae the ratio substantially. My little laptop is more powerful than the million dollar supercomputers of yesteryear.

One of the first computers I worked with has a main memory of 4000 bytes. My laptop has half a gigagbyte -- and it's too small.

Way back wnen, IBM had a 50 megabyte disk drive that was about the size of a closet. My laptop has an 80 gigabyte drive that fits in the palm of my hand. And 80 gigabytes is small.

Today I am still truly impressed by Google. It gathers information from millions of web sites, stores it in a monster database, and responds to queries in seconds. Not only that, as I type in a query it displays the number of entries it has before I finish typing. Amazing. I don't know how Google does it. It seems like magic.

In the past, document query systems were limited to specific topics, such as cancer research or archeology. But Google can tell you something about anything.

Years ago I could not have imagined the internet. I could not have imagined software with the power of Google.

I even use Google as a spell checker. To check the spelling of Hannukah I type it into my Google toolbar. Google not only confirms that spelling, but provides alternates, Hanukkah and Chanukah.

With all of my experience, can I predict the shape of the computer industry ten years from now?

No way!

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