Matchboxes and our Thalaivar

January 18, 2008

Last week sometime, I read that advances in computer modelling of nanotechnology wires (very, very small wires) mean that within ten years we are likely to have supercomputers the size of matchboxes.Part of me immediately wanted to know what size of matchbox.

Do they mean those small ones branded as “Rettai kiLi”(the proprietor might be a benami for Madam J) or the big boxes manufactured by “WITCO” exclusively for making the flower vases(with the help of tips from Mangaiyar malar,aval vikatan and so on and so forth) or those wax based ones, or those smaller, squarer boxes?…

…But it doesn’t matter. If supercomputers get that small, we are bound to put them down somewhere and lose them.A matchbox is smaller than a mobile phone… and people are always losing those.

I found one down the back of the seat in a taxi last week (a mobile phone, not a supercomputer… or a matchbox). The taxi driver tried to pretend it was his “spare” one which he had lent to the last passenger “because he wanted to make a call and asked me if I had a spare phone”… As if… (when was the last time you thought of asking a taxi driver if he had a spare phone for passengers to use on the off chance). Really the driver was worried that I was going to be a good samaritan and return it to the owner, when he just wanted to sell it for a few pounds.

So imagine what would happen if we had pockets full of teeny, weeny supercomputers. The back of your sofa would be like a data centre and you would be forever looking for somewhere to recharge your processing power. But actually, that is what will happen. Computers keep getting smaller and more powerful. The manufacturers will keep finding ways to make them appealing as lifestyle accessories. And suckers like me will keep wanting them.

I already carry around in my pocket at least 1,000 times more processing power than was used in the lunar module that carried astronauts to the surface of the moon. In fact, at home we have an unremarkable washing machine which has more computing power than a lunar module.

The important thing is that science keeps finding the solution to the next problem. In this case the ability to predict the way in which miniscule wires will fold when twisted, which allows accurate modelling of the tiniest of molecular scale microchips… It is the ingenuity of scientists which deserves respect, not the size of the computer.

Now that our thalaivar donning the role of a scientist in the so called epic of this decade, what would his character be called?? Any takers for Asok?? (the recently reincarnated intern)


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