There have been major developments in hardware since the advent of the first computer. Back in the 1940s, 1st generation computers were based on vacuum tube technology, with the very first machine switched on in 1946. This machine was 1800 square feet in size, used 18000 vacuum tubes, and weighed almost 50 tons. Fast forward to today, and tech giant IBM has just released the world’s smallest computer.
This tiny piece of mega technology is a mere 1mm x 1mm, and is smaller than a grain of salt. This salt grain size piece of tech costs less than $0.10 to make, and has the same processing power as a 90s IBM desktop. To put that into perspective, it has the processing power of a 5th generation computer, on something the size of a piece of coarse Himalayan salt.
Computer Generations Explained
To make things easier for users, computers have been categorised in generations, with each new generation marking a substantial leap in technology. Every major technological breakthrough in the world of computers marks the end of an era for a generation, and the beginning of the next. Therefore, the first computer was a 1st generation, the move from vacuum tube technology to transistors welcomed the 2nd generation, integrated circuits becoming the 3rd generation, and so on.
Today we are looking at 8th generation technology that supports 4k video, virtual reality and 3D, and UHD graphics (that’s a step up from yesterday’s HD). It is only when a technological breakthrough is clearly identifiable that we move to the next generation, and certain manufacturers are already whispering about 9th gen.
This kind of technological advancement allows us to do everything from a machine that fits into the palm of your hand. Not so many years ago, it would be considered impossible to order food from your mobile phone; today you can do so using an app. Historically if you were looking to win big, you would plan a day trip to the casino for a good gambling session. Today you can play your favourite games online. Visiting friends used to require making a date and sticking to it. Now, you can simply send a Whatsapp or check out their Facebook or Instagram profile to see what they are up to.
Tiny Tech Capabilities
IBM’s tiny computer is only useful if we know what it can do. With hundreds and thousands of transistors, it will be able to analyse data, process, report and act on it. Essentially, it will be able to perform the basics of what most computers are able to do now.
This tiny tech works on blockchain technology; the same technology that runs Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, with its main aim being tracking, online security and the implementation of Artificial Intelligence. It has not yet been released, and we’re not entirely sure which gen it falls into. 5th? Who knows, but it turns out that size counts, and in this case smaller is better.
Looking at Tiny Tech and Everyday Use
Most consumers do not realise just how many computers they utilise in their day-to-day life. From microwaves to smartphones, just about everything is computerised. Now, consider the first computer, all 50 tons of it (that’s not going to fit into your pocket), and compare it to today’s everyday computer.
With all this new-fangled technology comes new security concerns, and that is one of the main uses for the salt grain chip. Eventually, they could embed it in a drop of ink – think tracking (people, stock, or shipping), and it will change the way large data is processed, which will change the face of Super Computers. Power saving could result in mobile batteries lasting hours longer, but by far the biggest advantage is how much processing power this tiny tech has the potential of adding to our everyday lives. IBM has taken a major step forward, and the future of tiny computing has suddenly gotten a whole lot bigger.