The Best of Creative Computing Volume 2 (published 1977)

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The Future of Computer Technology (computer building blocks, multi-computer)
by Deanna J. Dragunas

graphic of page

The Future of Computer Technology

by Deanna J. Dragunas


In a few years, everywhere you
turn, a computer will be there to
assist, to inform, or simply to play


ln early 1974, Arthur D. Little, Inc. prepared a comprehensive technological
forecast for the Electronic Systems Division of the U.S. Air Force to allow the
Air Force to plan for the most efficient use of future data-processing
capabilities. That report focuses on what we can expect our computer building
blocks and our computer systems to look like in ten to fifteen years. Let's
closely examine this techno-forecast.

Three computer building blocks are foreseen, each a different scale of
processor. The smallest processor will be similar to today's microprocessor. It
will have a small programmable read-only memory to start with; as time and
technology advance it will become increasingly more sophisticated and powerful.
This processor will be manufactured on one or a few semi-conductor chips as are
today's microprocessors.

The second building block will resemble today's small computer system or I/O
channel controller. We could call it a complex microprocessor, put together like
the smallest building block processor, but considerably more complex.

The third building block processor will be a central processing unit comparable
to that in today's medium to
high-priced computer systems, but with the speed of today's most complex,
largest computers.

Using these three building block processors, four distinct end-user system types
are predicted. The first and
smallest will undoubtedly have the greatest impact on day to day life, an impact
greater than that of the now readily available pocket calculator. This smallest
computer system, the microcomputer, will have one of the smallest processors in
it. The microcomputer will be used as an intelligent terminal at first, but then
will progress to a small stand-alone system. Microcomputers will be found in
televisions, telephones, automobiles, lawn-mowers, calculators (which by then
will really be small computers), and in a variety of other such equipment.

The second end-user system, the minicomputer system, will be composed of a
single mid-level building block processor and a number of the miroprocessors.
This will be a whole computer system which will outstrip today's
smaller and medium-sized computers. The simple microprocessors will be contained
in the peripheral equipment
and terminals, and the complex microprocessor will be the heart of a system
which will be able to handle interactive applications and a single background
batch stream. This will be the most widely-used computer. This will also be the
kind most hobbyists will build in their basements.

The third level of computer system will be a large batch processing system. Of
course, some interactivity will be possible, but this will be primarily a
payroll processing, number-crunching, report-generating system. lt will have a
single or perhaps two central processing units of the largest building-block
type, several complex microprocessors for high volume peripheral control, and a
scattering of simple microprocessors where needed.

The multi-computer will be the largest computer system. It will be a network of
computers within itself with up to four or more of the largest cpu's and as many
of the smaller processors as necessary for efficient service for many different
users in a number of modes and environments at the same time. For instance, some
users may do interactive programming while others run batch processing in
emulations of obsolete computer systems, while still others retrieve information
from the data bases managed by the multi-computer system. The system will have
extremely large data bases and a highly complex executive or operating system to
orchestrate its technological complexity. Dial-up data bases for a variety of
needs, from menu-planning to medical information retrieval, from trip-planning
to news distribution, can be served by such computer conglomerates.

In a few years, everywhere you turn, a computer will be there to assist, to
inform, or simply to play with.

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