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Distributed computing 2: The next generation

You aint seen nothing yet.
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I've found a lot of ideas that hint at this, let me know if I missed any that were close enough to make this redundant / baked.

Computing is becoming increasingly universal. I have a processor in my washing machine, another in my telly, one in my video, several in my DVD player, more in my Hi-fi, Digi box, microwave, probably even my toaster. The list is huge - my car, my central heating, my mobile, my land phone, my clocks and watch, my battery rechargers - and I've probably missed some. More devices are acquiring processors all the time.

At the moment the excitement is about convergence, so that your telly can be your PC, your PC can be your HiFi, your HiFi can play your movies, and your Video player can take up too much room because you can't get Knight Rider on DVD. Because they can do each other's jobs, the other excitement is about getting the devices to talk to each other. That way, your PC can teach your washing machine to wash clothes better, while your Central Heating can tell your toaster to cook for less time because someone set the temperature to roasting already. Later, your car asks your mobile to call you central heating to tell it that you're on the way home, could it turn the heating back up and also pass a message to your oven to turn on at 220degrees. Systems such as ZigBee allow you to add this to systems relatively cheaply, but no one is really doing it yet.

Meanwhile, processor speeds are quickly reaching a final limit, meaning that processor manufacturers are resorting to multiple processing cores to improve performance. As a result, many programs are multi-threaded and increasingly distributed-aware.

With these elements in place, the possibility of the next generation of distributed computing becomes real. Supplement your PC capability with all that spare capacity in the house. After all, most of the time your high-end toaster doesn't need to work out which side of the bagel to toast. Ultimately, your laptop could now have just a screen, keyboard, and maybe a flash / hard drive, and a wireless connection. Actual processing power is provided by any devices within range. Obviously, this would be no good out in the sticks, but it could find spare processing capacity almost anywhere half civilised. Security and encryption would have to be taken into consideration, of course.

I can see many advantages to this. Upgrading your processing power becomes a lot more graded. It also fits into different priorities: One member of the house may want a new and better cooker, whilst the other needs some more graphics processing capability to play Quarter Death IV; both can be appeased with a single purchase (as long as they don't try to play the game while dinner is cooking).

The world, meanwhile, is your processor-filled oyster.

TheLightsAreOnBut, Apr 17 2007

Trinkets Distributed_20computing_20trinkets
You could use these too [TheLightsAreOnBut, Apr 17 2007]

Car processors SETI_40car
Use them to calculate how fast the alien's severed head falls, not if they're out there. [TheLightsAreOnBut, Apr 17 2007]

Plug and play Plug_20and_20Play_2...ributed_20Processor
The more the processors the better! [TheLightsAreOnBut, Apr 17 2007]

ZigBee http://www.zigbee.org/en/index.asp
great stuff. [TheLightsAreOnBut, Apr 17 2007]


       This trend of "thin clients" was big in the late 80ies/early 90ies, in my memory, but never went anywhere.   

       I think this is going to lose out against a different vision:   

       Your cellphone is smart enough. Computational power just isn't a problem for most consumers. (In contrast, problems consumers do have: UIs; comprehension; access to media; access to humans; social climbing.)   

       What may open up interfaces in spite of this is the desire to use familiar interfaces on everything. But even in a world where you can talk to your toaster from a PDA, it's still not worth the communication overhead to farming computing tasks out to it.
jutta, Apr 17 2007

       Trust. Perhaps the most fundamental aspect of future distributed computing is trust and authentication (as well as authorisation).
Jinbish, Apr 17 2007

       If I need a PC to make toast, I'll toast the bread over the flames of its funeral pyre. [-]
nuclear hobo, Apr 18 2007


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