Jan 15 2010

Cloud Computing Circa 1963

Well – what’s old is new again. Dave Jilk – my first business partner and CTO of Standing Cloud – sent me this magnificent video on 1963 Timesharing: A Solution to Computer Bottlenecks where MIT Professor Fernando Corbato explains how timesharing works to MIT Science Reporter John Fitch (who has one of those magnificent deep reporter voices).

Since history can be so incredibly instructive to reflect on when you think about the future of science.  If you draw a curve of “computer technology progress” from 1963 to 2010 after you watch this and then ponder the progress from 2010 to 2057 you will have a very interesting few moments of reflection.

The following quotes are approximate but they will give you enough sound bites to motivate you to watch it!

“Computers used to be unreliable – they managed to lick all of those problems” (2:00)

“The man machine interaction is very poor” (3:00)

“The computers are very expensive – they cost between 300 and 600 / hour” (3:30) – (BAF: Kind of like a lawyer today)

“It’s a little noisy out here (in the data center) – let’s go in my office so I can show you how it works from a remote terminal” (4:30)

“It looks like a typewriter” (5:00)

The moments of drawing on a blackboard to explain how a computer works (starting around 6:00) is priceless.

“Eventually we’d like to see graphical display but there are technical problems right now” (9:30)

“Wooo the chalk is a little soft” (12:30)

“The disk memories have been available for a year or so but most people haven’t figured out how to use them yet because they haven’t figured out how to keep things from getting mixed up” (16:30)

“I’m moderately familiar with the keyboard – we have to study how humans interact with the machines” (19:00)

Watching the interactive demo at about 20:00 is just wild.

“In the long run we will have increasing needs for computer time by a large amount” (25:00)

Singularity anyone?  Or not so much?