Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Computing history and economic crises

From a letter to someone who works in the computer industry, pasted quickly.

Just by chance, when looking through the list of various nettops
( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nettop ), I first stumbled upon a device called Linutop
( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linutop ), which is based on a ThinCan reference design that originates from Estonia (I was rather surprised). ThinCan is actually a great name, reminds me of the word Think, which then reminded me of a rather fruity company.

This image of a nettop —
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Linutop_polo.jpg
vaguely reminded me of something else that originated from Estonia, but was widely produced elsewhere:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minox
Mass production of the camera began in Latvia, but the prototype was made in Estonia by Walter Zapp and many things there just happened by chance anyway. Maybe this is also the era that began the craze and craving for the small form factor.

The miniputer that could uses AMD's Geode for their CPU and uses the GPL Coreboot for the BIOS:
http://wiki.thincan.org/DBE61#Booting_the_DBE61
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coreboot

(I later learned to my dismay that AMD closed its Geode development team down and moved its developers elsewhere, although it still manufactures the chips. Maybe AMD has something similar up their sleeve.)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ThinCan — Behold the computer in a can! See accompanying photo, which reminds me of a cutout from a rocket or something. Now I remembered R2D2. Oh, the memories...

The nettop market is said on Wikipedia to have huge potential, though I also have my own tack on why.

Nettops are basically a full-featured reinvention of Network Computers —
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Network_computer.
Larry Ellison can now be seen as a visionary in this field, because the form factor fits in nicely and what he promised then and more is now readily available for much less cost than 10–13 years ago.

Reasons for nettops' potential market adoption cited here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nettop#Market

(Someone on /. wrote that “Windows Vista is not slow, it is 'special'” :-)

That main reason now is cost, and while it's mentioned everywhere anyway because it's such a factor, it has currently become a major reason. The .com bubble saw through the deployment of integrated peripherals (yay, an everyday user didn't need expansion cards no more!). The current global financial crisis: While computer and notebook sales are lagging, most PC companies are held up by brisk netbook sales. Nettops are likely to have their cut now and then in the future.

TGDaily: "Netbooks slow decline of PC market, but bring new headaches"
http://www.tgdaily.com/content/view/42818/118/

I was thinking that Intel's integrated peripherals foray might have originated from the first iMacs, although small form factors have always been in existence, with various degrees of success:
http://www.embeddedarm.com/software/arm-netbsd-toaster.php

I remember, that at around 2005 or so I had seen websites of a few small computer manufacturers that sold very basic and affordable PC's that had really small form factors. Take away the hard drive and you have a dumb terminal. I guess they've almost always been there, it's just that people never notice these things during boom years.

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