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LinuxWorld: Paint-on processors and nanotechnology

Oct 30, 2000, 23:55 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Cameron Laird)

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"Peer-to-peer distributed computing and clusters are two recurring hot topics in the Linux world. What'll it be like, though, when those technologies truly take root, and we each have not two or ten external processors working for us, but a thousand, or a million?"

"That's the sort of question Harold Abelson, Gerald Sussmann, and eight alphabetically-sorted more junior coauthors address in their 1999 MIT memorandum, "Amorphous Computing" (reprinted by the Communications for the Association of Computing Machinery earlier this year). Among their conclusions: we'll need new programming models to exploit processors that are individually unreliable and communicate over unreliable channels. It'll be worth it, though, because the marginal cost of each additional processor will be under a penny, and the right kind of design and engineering will give us unprecedented computational power."

"Amorphous computing is sometimes called swarm computing to emphasize that a collective result emerges from individual microlevel behaviors with the surprising symmetry of a relocating bee or ant colony. This form of computing is also important for controlling the devices created by nanotechnology. Amorphous computing builds on research into distributed computing models like Jini. It presumably will be fueled by nanotechnology research and will ultimately provide the intelligence for nanotechnology products. And it might well be built with calculating biological molecules like those proposed by "Amorphous Computing" coauthor Tom Knight."

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