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Sat, 27 Sep 2003
Computers, monocultures, and history
Simon Phipps has a good post with some other postings related to monocultures.

Today's computing environment is far more monocultural than is being discussed. It's not only the monoculture of Microsoft operating systems. It's a monoculture of statically typed languages derived from a C base. It's an operating systems monoculture where most of the ideas are derived or recycled from Unix. It's a hardware monoculture that results in hardware that is optimized to run C programs.

When I got started in computing, there was much more diversity of hardware architecture, operating systems, and programming languages. I frequently find myself longing for those days, and part of what you see in my blog is hearkening back into the history of computing to remind you that much of what's new has already been old, and that some of what is yet to be new, may also already have been old. That's not to say that we haven't made any progress, but maybe it's just a longwinded way of saying that those who ignore history are doomed to reinvent it badly.

Chris Csziksentmihalyi appears on the critical technical practices links page that Simon referenced (unfortunately, I couldn't get to his RPI pages, and his Media Lab pages are a maze that didn't yield the information I was looking for). Chris' work includes bulding technical artifacts that could have existed in an alternate history of technology.

If we took the manufacturing techniques that are used to produce today's high end PC's and workstations, and tried to go back in time to those days of diversity, what would we end up building? Given that we're talking about multiple processor cores on a chip, and hundreds of gigabytes of storage, and incredible rendering performance, would the assumptions that led to C/UNIX and their descendents still hold? It's too bad is commercially infeasible to find out.

[23:02] | [computers] | # | TB | F | G | 0 Comments | Other blogs commenting on this post
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