The Cloud and Mainframes

Yesterday IBM stock was up, apparently because of the success of a new mainframe it has introduced and because of its success in the computer cloud.  To some extent this illustrates how computer technology has fluctuated between centralized computing and stand-alone computing.  

First we had mainframe computers with dumb terminals connected to it by wires.  Then PCs came along, and everybody worked on his own computer at his own desk.  Then PCs began to be networked, so that they could talk to each other and to central database computers.  They could operate as stand-alone computers, or as dumb terminals connected to a mainframe.  Then the PCs shrank down to telephones, which had moderate computing power, but little storage for data nor enough display for complicated documents or data.  The telephones then began to connect to data in the cloud.  The cloud may be a warehouse full of servers, but it is still centralized computing, appearing much like the old mainframe with dumb terminals attached.  If you want to do any meaningful data processing on your phone, you have to connect to some centralized computing facility.  A distributed storage system like blockchain breaks up the central storage facility, but your phone is still pretty useless unless it is connected to some external source of data.  So, it’s not surprising that we are coming full circle back to the old IBM mainframe.  

A lot of the phone’s computer power is spent on internal processing of graphics or artificial intelligence functions, like Siri.  Despite having more computing power than the capsule that went to the moon, phones are still dependent on external computing power, mainly in cloud server farms.  


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