Now, today, as I type this, the wire services are carrying an incredible story: scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have built a supercomputer capable of a half-trillion operations per second from 100 Sony PlayStation 2 game consoles linked together. It runs Linux (big surprise) and the biggest challenge to the engineers was unwrapping all of the machines (a nice metaphor for decentralization's inherent problems).
What does all of this decentralization mean? For one thing, probably that new killer product or application we've all been praying for to revitalize high tech. A lot of interesting new companies. The death of some giant corporations. Cool new consumer products. And probably a transfer to the company's new division in Pocatello.
We can also expect to spend a lot more time screaming at devices that won't talk to each other, products that are orphaned overnight by their dead manufacturers, and most of all, that day five or six years hence, when, without irony, we find ourselves praying for some big corporate white knight to come in and stomp the market back into some sort of order.
In the meantime, welcome back to the Empire of the Ants.
Michael S. Malone, once called “the Boswell of Silicon Valley,” most recently was editor-at-large of Forbes ASAP magazine. His work as the nation’s first daily high-tech reporter at the San Jose Mercury-News sparked the writing of his critically acclaimed The Big Score: The Billion Dollar Story of Silicon Valley, which went on to become a public TV series. He has written several other highly praised business books and a novel about Silicon Valley, where he was raised.