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Space Travel and Computing

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As everyone will know, today is the anniversary of the first manned space flight landing, and subsequently walking on the moon.  What an amazing achievement it was, made even more incredible by the sheer manual nature of space flying as exemplified by the failed Apollo 13 mission.  I thought it would be interesting to look back at 1969 and see what occurred that year in technology. 

Hard Disks – IBM were selling the IBM model 2314 – with an eye watering capacity of 222MB (in eight separate disk packs) and a response time of 60ms.  Follow the link and have a look at the picture.  Then 2314 was enormous!

Internet – The Internet (or to be more precise, its forerunner, ARPANET) was a mesh of four computers.

Unix – Unix had just been invented….

look at us now…

Hard Disks – we can store 2TB in a 3.5″ drive with access times of around 5ms.  That’s a 9000-fold increase in capacity.

Internet - In June 2009, Netcraft detected over 238 million websites – a growth of well, 59 million-fold…

Unix – Unix is everywhere in dozens of different flavors.  As a server platform it is ubiquitous and touches almost every aspect of computing.

Unfortunately, space travel has not developed as quickly.  I’m sure many people listening and watching the moon landing would have imagined we’d be living on the moon by now and planning to push the human race further out into space.  Whilst technologists have overcome some of the most difficult computing challenges and given us faster and smaller computing devices, we still can’t overcome the one thing which keeps us and our space ships tied to the earth – gravity.  The space shuttle was a great innovation but it still requires a propulsion system that constitutes 60% of the weight of the rocket itself.  Perhaps in another 40 years we’ll have that sorted.  I’d love to be around to find out.

About Chris M Evans

Chris M Evans has worked in the technology industry since 1987, starting as a systems programmer on the IBM mainframe platform, while retaining an interest in storage. After working abroad, he co-founded an Internet-based music distribution company during the .com era, returning to consultancy in the new millennium. In 2009 Chris co-founded Langton Blue Ltd (www.langtonblue.com), a boutique consultancy firm focused on delivering business benefit through efficient technology deployments. Chris writes a popular blog at http://blog.architecting.it, attends many conferences and invitation-only events and can be found providing regular industry contributions through Twitter (@chrismevans) and other social media outlets.
  • http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/blogs/page/storagevirtualization Barry Whyte

    A few of us were discussing something similar. NASA’s Constellation program looks interesting, but still even though they are sending multiple “parts” into orbit at a time, then docking etc, until we can manufacture, build and assemble spacecraft in orbit, or on the moon (did they ever find any decent minerals/metals that could be mined?) I don’t see how we can get over the gravity / atmosphere issues even in 40 years – but then, maybe thats like saying :

    There’s probably only a market for maybe 5 computers in the world… A famous IBM CEO :)

    Who could need more than 640KB memory… A famous Microsoft CEO :)

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