Tag Archives: parallelism

Asynchronicity Traps

Don’t you love it when lack of planning comes together?

Last Thursday, I learned about JavaScript callbacks, which reminded me of OpenVMS Asynchronous Traps (ASTs.) I learned to code in a world of single-threaded processing, so this was an advanced topic, along with my interest in occam and Communicating Sequential Processes. Back then, only real-time coders and those looking to the future cared about parallelism. I remember not really seeing the point of Yourdon ‘state-diagrams’. I’d never experienced the complex state network that a GUI with a few option buttons can generate.

Last night I came across debates about the advisability of abandoning JS callbacks for the HTML5 ‘promise’ construct; “callback hell”, they called it. Promises are functions. This is another area where the elegant simplicity of functional programming appears to offer hope. Functions are mathematical constructs, so in functional languages perhaps all possible states that code might enter can be identified.

Alongside this, I’ve been reading about research into the energy requirements of computation. For a long time, computer scientists thought that every logic operation would have a cost in terms of energy and hence entropy, but that appears not to be true. It is information deletion that costs energy, so immutable data is more energy efficient. I’m only up (down?) to quantum bits, so I’ll have to let you know how the cat gets on another day. I worry when physics starts to look like mystical religions.

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Living in The Future (but not as you knew it, in 1991)

I’ve been going through some press cuttings from 1991. In a single column from UK professional publiucation ‘Computing’, 7 November:

“Connecting information systems is emerging as an alternative to corporate acquisition or merger. The beauty of this approach is it allows two companies to combine resources without the need for amalgamation.” Predicting the networked society?

Except: “The first step towards information sharing outside the company is electronic data interchange” Remember EDI?

“some organisations are finding that their customer data is a source of considerable income if shared with a third party. American Airlines learnt this almost by accident when it implemented its computer reservation system. Sales of its customer information now generate higher profit margins than sales of flight tickets.” Google improved the model by giving the product away and only renting their customers out by the hit.

“Ultimately this will lead to a global information infrastructure, where datacom lines are as important as the roads and railways to the health of the economy”

Then in “WHAT’S IN STORE FOR THE OFFICE”:

“Professor John Larmouth, director of the IT institute at Salford University, suffers from technological schitzophrenia – he sees two futures for office computing in the next decade.

‘It is arguable that everyone will have a notebook PC that fits into their briefcase. They will use it wherever they are and perhaps just have a VDU on their office desk.’ He describes a future where first-class rail carriages have telephone links, where executives are entirely independent of the IS department. ‘But,’ he says, ‘that rather goes against the X-terminals approach.’

This is Larmouth’s second scenario: no processors on the desktop but a pool of CPUs held at a central point and accessed via a terminal on the local area network. Certain CPUs would be dedicated to particular users so they don’t have to wait for processor time. That brings control back to the IS department.”

“‘That’s just an extension of what we have now,’ says Mayon-White at Cranfield Institute of Technology, ‘though people are right to point to it. If this is the tail-end of the PC and network age, then the next is parallelism” He and Andy Bytheway of Cranfield go on to describe nanotechnology, “the next steps during this decade” and biological intelligence, where “an inventor can translate his design into an electronic signal, transmit it over a telephone line straight into a bucket of this universal matter. The matter would, of it’s own accord, then take the form of this design. And that’s where the economy shifts from one based on information to one based on biology.”

Close but no cigar? They didn’t even predict the smoking ban.