Prospects that our Computer Technology Did not Have
It seems that many years have passed, which made an eternity by the standards of the world of computer technology. And the reflection on past mistakes does not stop. And what would have happened if...
My answer is nothing radically new. It would be roughly the same as what we now have.
On the one hand, the answer seems sad, but on the contrary, it reconciles with the individual mistakes of the past. For nothing depends on them.
However, let us return to reflection. I do not know if you are facing it (but do you really meet it?), but it periodically meets me. The material is more about history, but the last paragraphs in it clearly hint at something great that we lost because of one supposedly stupid decision.
And today in the social network wrote a friend: "We started our company with ...", "a mission to Venus, launching the rocket from the Moon back - no one has repeated it, so why should we be leaders in some companies?"
Well, I have two answers to this:
- Computers are more complicated than missiles (I can see how the missiles got angry, but wait a bit).
- A planned economy with such complexity was unable to cope.
Why are computers more complicated?
Launching a missile is, for the most part, an engineering task. It is necessary to realize the physics of the 19th century in iron. It is not easy, of course, but can be solved within the framework of an incremental development process. It is noteworthy that various independent projects in this field started with approximately the same events and developed the same way.
It's not so with computers. The world has seen - and still, sees - a lot of completely different iron. And no one knows what will survive from this zoo and what the industry will look like in three years.
While with rockets until now everything was entirely predictable: launch a satellite, launch a man, fly to the moon, fly off a little further, fly off a bit further away.
But who could predict ten years ago that Deep Learning will become wildly popular? What will even slow Intel release a processor specifically for Deep Learning? What will Nvidia suddenly rise on the topic of graphics accelerators (shares for 2.5 years grew seven times)?
It's because computers are not just about engineering. This, first of all, about business. The real needs of real business push the development of computer technology forward. And here we come to the second problem.
Of course, it allows us to mobilize the entire country for one or two global projects. But at the same time, it suffers from a catastrophic shortage of resources under all the rest. There are few resources, and one has to choose whom they will get. There is no market competition. There is only competition between scientific groups at the stage of prototyping or even only planning. And this contest ends at the level of the Central Committee or a special commission, where politicians must vote for who gets scarce resources. And they will get to someone who is married to the daughter of the head of the commission. A little exaggerated, but not far from the truth.
Those. The market does not vote with real money, but politicians vote with the strength of ties with candidates.
So you can make a rocket, but not a competitive microprocessor. The processor must have a market. There must be something wider than the defense industry.
Therefore, it does not matter which mass machine was financed. It is important that she was alone (or more precisely, 1.5). And she, in fact, had only one customer. In my opinion, even the decision to copy IBM cannot be called super-stupid. Indeed, why on this ruling should everything end? Why did IBM not stop there?
So we are reconciled with history and are no longer sad. None of our cars had a chance of becoming the second (or even the first) x86.