Back in the 1970s and 1980’s, computing was all about big, beefy computers and dumb terminals. Then a new wave hit, and everyone switched to de-centralized processing using networks of PC’s which then uploaded their data to a centralized system for processing.
Today, most small to medium sized companies simply use their own network of desktop computers, laptops, and tablets, and their own servers to run their operations. Most of them also use VoIP systems to handle incoming and outgoing phone calls. But there are large companies who still use large mainframe computers because of the sheer volume of data they need to process.
Then there are the supercomputers. Those are a whole different breed of computers. They actually consist of hundreds, or more probably, thousands of servers in clusters which are used for complex computations and simulations.
Some are put to use trying to forecast storms and other weather conditions. If you aren’t certain why we need a supercomputer to predict weather patterns, I can offer you some examples. Weather conditions will affect crop yields, they will affect the transportation of goods, they will affect whether military operations can be conducted and it can even affect the price of commodities offered on the stock market.
Many of the supercomputers in use today model the effects of nuclear disasters, down to subatomic levels. Though none of us wants to even entertain the threat of a nuclear war, it would be naive not to find ways to understand what would happen and how to prepare.
The big issues for supercomputers in mean time between failure. They run so fast and process such a huge amount of data, that they often fail. The issue now facing the supercomputer industry is the current technology can’t keep up with demands for processing speed. Which means companies are looking for more efficient ways to build servers that use something other than silicone for their memory needs.
What does that mean for the rest of us? Well, I think that in the next decade, much of what we see in the world of computers is going to have to change. That can be exciting for some of us nerds and probably downright mind-blowing for others.
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