Saturday, February 26, 2011

So many computers

When I was younger, unlike the opportunities of today's youth, I had never seen a computer except the phony ones in the movies. It was not until I was in the Navy and worked in a radio shack that I actually saw a real computer.

It is not to say that I didn't understand the concept -- I had already designed robots that could actually work in every way except for the brain and all the things that depend on brains, like eyes and ears and controling something so complex. As a child I drew all kinds of designs, in very fine detail, and in every way completely wrong.

When I did have the chance to learn about real computers, real robots and all the real problems that had never yet been solved, I dove in head first -- convinced that I could somehow solve those kinds of problems -- again, completely wrong.

I now have an infinite number of computers. Not in my house, of course, nor in my work, or even on the Earth, but in the virtual world. Every atom in the universe is a kind of little computer -- which reacts to the other atoms around it in some way that makes each atom unique. Such a large number of computers is useless, however, since there is no way I can program them all.

Even in my house, if I tried to count them all, I have literally dozens of computers. Some are like this one that I am typing on -- an old Dell that runs Linux but is attached via Ethernet to my Alienware machine that also runs Linux, and Windows7, and XP and several other Linux virtual machines. Why do I use this old Dell when I have so many others? Because it's the window I started typing in and it doesn't make any difference which one -- I can only type this fast.

But upstairs I have another laptop, and in my work backpack, another laptop, and my wife has another laptop, and my daughter has one, and her daughter has one -- all in this house. But beyond those there are even more. There are at least 3 working Android phones, several Blackberries, several LGs and even more that I'm not sure what brand they are. They are useless to anyone except for the grandkids to pretend they are using real phones and real computers, and in a way they really are. The batteries mostly still work, they can still take pictures and display things on their otherwise useless screens.

And, to connect all those things, I have an Internet connection via a cable modem, with 2 wireless routers hanging off it, an Internet phone hanging off of it, and yet more Ethernet routers hanging off that. All of those have little computers inside that are running some little form of Unix-like operating system.

Then there are the TVs, the MP3 players, the children's toys, the Wiis, Xboxes and other video games I'm not even sure what they are called.

Now, in order to use all this stuff, it has to all be connected properly, updated properly, supplied with electricity and batteries and wires and other gadgetry that makes my head spin, and my wallet sting.

So, I guess in the future some person will remember back to this time -- when computers were actually called computers, weren't just omnipresent patches of cloth in everything that is worn. When computers had to be told what to do by specialists like me who had to memorize vast numbers of infinitely petty languages written in arcane mathematical mazes by people who didn't realize what the future would really become.

In that future, not to far from now, it may even be that people forget how computers work, and that only computers will know, and only computers will know how to keep people alive -- because it is just to damn complicated for humans to do it anymore. Either that or there will be some kind of Skynet-like apocalypse that destroys our world in the singularity of cyber-consciousness.

Whatever, I have to write some code now.

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