Russell Holton
(AVSIG Member)
12/24/15 12:49 PM
Re: Time sink!



Although Watson is well known for his alleged 1943 statement, "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers," there is scant evidence he made it.

Given the cost to buy and operate a 1940's computer, he might have well have been right.

As I recall, IBM was formed to help the government tabulate the US Census. One of the jobs of the early computers was to create the ballistics table for firing big guns. Then there was the one built for code-breaking. All-in-all, applications that only first world governments would have or be able to afford.

But once they got cheap and powerful enough to do business accounting, the market suddenly got much, much larger. And with shrinking size, costs and increasing power, we've entered an era that even the science-fiction writers got wrong. Notice the difference in computers between the original Star Trek series (essentially a tabulator) and the later ones (with a holodeck).

Here's an illustration of the power of today's computers:


Could an IBM mainframe from the 1960s mine Bitcoin? The idea seemed crazy, so I decided to find out. I implemented the Bitcoin hash algorithm in assembly code for the IBM 1401 and tested it on a working vintage mainframe. It turns out that this computer could mine, but so slowly it would take more than the lifetime of the universe to successfully mine a block. While modern hardware can compute billions of hashes per second, the 1401 takes 80 seconds to compute a single hash. This illustrates the improvement of computer performance in the past decades, most famously described by Moore's Law.

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