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If you’re interested in learning about the history of the computer industry or even if you just want to figure out how to lead an enterprise technology company, then you should take a look.
The Computer History Museum
I think millions of computer users will have heard of the Computer History Museum, a world-class institution in Mountain View, California.
It’s a place in which you can learn everything about the history of the technologies which continue to transform the way humans interact with each other and with the world.
Being human in a computer world
“What does it mean to be a human in a world of computing?” asks Dan’l Lewin, President and CEO, Computer History Museum in the latest StoriesHere podcast.
Lewin worked with Steve Jobs at Apple after spending time running Sony’s Silicon Valley distribution; became a NeXT co-founder; joined upper management at Microsoft and more.
Now he’s working to make the museum a more interactive experience, “a programmable institution,” as he puts it.
Steve Jobs was motivated to use the 3.5-inch floppy disk having seen it at Sony, at which point Lewin was part of Apple’s 10-strong workforce.
Later, Jobs asked him to help him launch NeXT. “I spent a day with him and then quit my job the following week,” he said.
“At Apple, I got to work with the engineers who invented everything that we live with today.”
3 Silicon Valley tips for enterprise leaders
I’ve listened to the podcast to pull out just a handful of ideas that should interest Apple and other technology users and anyone involved in management or enterprise IT.
You can (and should) hear the entire 45-minute transmission here.
Tip #1: Find the story
A senior Silicon Valley executive, Lewin led numerous negotiations as the tech industry grew. (He even managed to beat Steve Jobs in at least one deal).
He tells a story in which he claims one of the reasons Jobs eventually got fired was because he wanted to “blow up” the distribution deals (typically 15%/85% in favour of the distributor) that existed at the time.
Jobs still felt the same at NeXT, where Lewin had to figure out how to make a mutually good deal that gave Jobs the 50% revenue share he wanted without bankrupting Heidi Roizen, who was to be the distributor.
He looked at the royalties and how the revenue actually worked to find that in terms of profit after costs both parties could end up with a 50 percent share. He suggests that in this business deal, as in others, a little negotiation was all it took once the costs were properly analyzed. Sometimes both sides can win.
Tip #2: People matter most
There’s a tendency to see business as dependent on systems, distribution, management hierarchies, connections, but this doesn’t reflect the big picture. And the big picture is the little picture. Even in the tech industry, business is about people, Lewin stressed.
“When I was in college, I had a professor who focused on the topic as relationships between people. I never lost touch with the fact that business is made up of people, it’s about the person in the moment and what you need to do to make that work,” he said.
Another tendency is for organizations to become relatively flat.
Diversity makes businesses thrive, but many managers find it hard to look for people who are different than they are.
Lewin has a unique advantage here.
His father was a Marine with three Purple Hearts. This led Lewin’s father to become a professional wrestler at the beginning of broadcast TV. Lewin would go to work with his dad, which meant he became used to incredible diversity, and was able to engage with people at lots of different levels.
Diversity, and being familiar with it, helps businesses thrive – at least if Lewin’s success is your guide.
Tip #3: Peace is good for business
After NeXT, Lewin ran a series of start-ups (some failed, some didn’t), ending up working at Microsoft, where his challenge was to create peace with others in the industry following the famed anti-trust case against the company.
The sense of how the people in the groups worked with others in Silicon Valley was part of this. The links between Microsoft and the rest of the industry run deep.
“The PowerPoint team was an acquisition right at the beginning of Microsoft and were a bunch of ex-Apple staff,” Lewin says.
Much of the business of making peace with the industry was (once again) on politics, which means people.
Competition can be collegiate, and that focus means Microsoft is now seen as a good company to do business with, explains Lewin. It means the company can seek new business opportunities and continue to hire good people.
Where are we going in computing?
In a sense, Lewin’s future plans for the Computer History Museum may reflect what he sees as the future of the tech industry.
“We’re moving into a digital world where computing is ambient and life as we know it doesn’t exist without computing,” he explains.
Yet the museum has decades of history packed inside it, including extensive oral history recordings from some of the great and the good in the industry.
“The museum presents an interesting opportunity to unleash the historical artifacts of the past to present day technologies,” he explains.
“These cycles tend to take about 50 years. If you go back to the beginning of the microprocessor, or if you look at other cycles like the one from railroads to aerospace … we’re basically entering the next phase, from 1970 to 2020.
Where we are today, tech is everywhere, but people are now and always have been at the center of that.
But technology was never principally about hardware. It was about information technology, which is about communication. “Media and art are fundamental,” he says. “They matter from a cultural perspective.”
Google is pushing civilization closer to quantum computing, a development which will change computing and most likely, the world. A Google-developed quantum computer, called Sycamore, solved a problem in seconds that would take a “normal” supercomputer 10,000 years.
Is the age of quantum computing upon us? Has Google achieved “quantum supremacy?” And what does quantum computing mean for you?
What Is Quantum Computing?
Quantum computing fundamentally alters how computers process data, using quantum physics.
A regular semiconductor-based processor (like the one in your laptop or smartphone) uses “bits” of information. The bits exist as a 1 or 0, somewhat like a switch that is on or off. The bits can only exist as a 1 or 0 on traditional hardware.
Quantum computers use quantum bits, known as “qubits.” A qubit can exist as both 1 and 0 simultaneously. The ability for a qubit to hold its state as a 1 and 0 is a central tenet of quantum computing and is known as superposition.
Superposition lets multiple calculations take place at the same time. But to do that, the qubits must be synchronized using a quantum effect known as entanglement.
Although it sounds like the name of an action-packed James Bond film, quantum supremacy is far more ground-breaking. Quantum supremacy is the name given to the moment when a quantum computer completes a calculation faster than a classical computer.
Google claims their Sycamore quantum processor has achieved quantum supremacy for the first time. The team of researchers, led by John Martinis, an experimental physicist at the University of California, set the quantum processor a random sampling task. The sampling task produces a set of numbers with truly random distribution.
“It is likely that the classical simulation time, currently estimated at 10,000 years, will be reduced by improved classical hardware and algorithms,” said Brooks Foxen, a graduate student researcher in Martinis’ lab. “But since we are currently 1.5 trillion times faster, we feel comfortable laying claim to this achievement.”
Has Google Achieved Quantum Supremacy?
The paper detailing the quantum supremacy experiments leaked on the NASA website. Although it was taken offline quickly, it caught the eye of a lot of people due to its bold claims. The paper has since published formally in the scientific journal, Nature.
However, IBM is unconvinced.
Days before the formal release of the Google quantum supremacy paper, IBM issued a paper claiming that the same performance gains can also work on classical hardware, given time to make extensions to a supercomputer. So, while Google argues that it has achieved quantum supremacy, IBM is arguing that it hasn’t because if, given time, it could theoretically extend their Summit supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratories to complete the same task in “approximately two and half days.”
IBM’s claims are not without basis, although not echoed throughout the scientific and computing community.
“The Google paper is reporting a substantial advance. We see wonderful fabrication, wonderful diagnostics, real care towards all the details that make this an advance,” says Sir Peter Knight, president of the Institute of Physics and board member of the Quantum Technology Strategic Advisory Board.
“Nevertheless, there are a number of assumptions in the paper. Like Google, IBM have also looked very carefully at the way that the supercomputing classical simulations could be done differently to check the idea of ‘computing supremacy’. Until the quantum community have had a chance to road test the data from the experiment using the Sycamore chip, how far Google have achieved this, is still an open question. But science progresses by challenging assumptions and I would expect to see more of this.”
Until IBM can provide evidence that the Summit supercomputer can complete the same test within a reasonable time frame, Google has achieved quantum supremacy.
What Does Quantum Supremacy Mean for You?
In the short term, quantum supremacy and quantum computing mean little to regular computer users. Quantum computing is an iterative process. Google’s development is an exciting and intriguing step forward. But, just as modern computing took time, so will quantum computing.
The second thing to consider is that a quantum computer requires a phenomenal amount of cooling. A quantum computer requires liquid nitrogen to operate. There is no way to replicate the amount of cooling required to bring quantum computing to a smartphone or laptop. The technology doesn’t exist.
That point when your non-scientific parent(s) asks you to explain Google’s Quantum Supremacy and if the robots are taking over yet. #QuantumSupermacy
Concerning the first point, it is a long-term goal. The first computers were the size of an entire room and took a whole team of scientists to run and program. Quantum computing is at the same stage.
Others have doubts that quantum computing will ever replace classical semiconductor-based computing. Moore’s Law dictates that the number of transistors in a processor will double every two years, increasing computing power along with it. (It doesn’t dictate that the processing power will increase, which is a misconception of the law.)
Even with the eventual and probable slowdown of semiconductor-based processors, processing power will continue to increase. Brian Krzanich, the former CEO of Intel, confirmed that Intel’s processor scaling is “closer to two and a half years than two,” but that the company would continue to pursue processor power advancements.
to classic semiconductor processing when Moore’s Law ends.
What Is Neven’s Law?
Neven’s Law dictates how quickly quantum processors are improving and is named after Hartmut Neven, director of the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab at Google.
Neven’s Law states that quantum processing power will grow with a double exponential rate—that’s insanely fast. For example, processing power grows by a factor of 2^2^1 (4), then 2^2^2 (16), then 2^2^3 (256), then 2^2^4 (65,536), and so on. Using this format, you can see how the rate of processing will rapidly massively increase.
Quantum Supremacy Is Here
Google’s quantum supremacy development is ground-breaking. Despite IBM’s efforts to undermine the quantum development, Google is pushing quantum computing forward. If scientists can find fault with Google’s claims, then the process and development will become stronger for it.
« Quantum computer took just 200 seconds to perform a calculation that would have taken the world’s top supercomputer 10,000 years to crack »…Google proclaims quantum supermacy, let’s say bye bye to encryption…
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“It’s in the cloud.” That common phrase still causes confusion. Here’s another one: “It’s a cloud service.” Why isn’t the service firmly rooted to the ground?
Cloud computing is everywhere. Most major online services use cloud computing in some manner. Cloud computing powers Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, iCloud, Google Drive, and countless other day to day services.
Wondering what cloud computing is? Here’s how cloud technology works, the different types of cloud services, and how you can use cloud computing.
What Is Cloud Computing?
Cloud computing is the delivery of computing services over the internet. Those computer services include servers, online storage, databases, networking, analytics, intelligence, and even whole cloud platforms (more on these in a moment).
On the development and services side, cloud computing is predominantly pay as you go. That means you only pay for the cloud computing resources you use. The switch to cloud computing was a marked change from existing internet business infrastructure where an organization would purchase and maintain its own hardware.
Cloud computing allows for the sharing of hardware resources, helping to lower costs, increase infrastructure efficiency, and scale with the demands of a business. In that, cloud computing also refers to the sharing of resources and infrastructure over the internet to the benefit of businesses, customers, and other users.
Cloud computing has existed since the 60s, when organizations could rent time on a mainframe. However, it wasn’t until Amazon popularized the concept in 2006 with its ground-breaking Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) that the term “cloud computing” hit the mainstream.
How Does Cloud Computing Work?
Websites and applications run using a front end and back end. The front end is the part you interact with, like your Facebook account or Google Drive.
The back end is the cloud computing aspect, which contains the service or application code, monitoring services, databases, storage, and much more. The largest cloud computing providers have enormous warehouses filled with servers dedicated to providing cloud services. The core aspect is that cloud computing is easily accessible from anywhere with an internet connection. It doesn’t matter if you’re in London or Lebanon, a cloud computing service can deliver the same service.
These days, cloud computing has several different models, which deliver different types of services.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is a common cloud computing service that provides a site or service with the infrastructure backend. The infrastructure varies between deployments and is very flexible, making IaaS one of the most popular cloud computing models.
Platform as a Service (PaaS) helps organizations deliver an entire online platform, taking care of the hardware and operating system. One of the major differences from IaaS to PaaS is the range of development tools and frameworks available to developers, allowing for the creation of complex applications and services.
Software as a Service (SaaS) is the use of cloud computing to deliver an application as a service. SaaS is the cloud computing model you are most likely to have used.
There are two primary cloud computing deployment models, too:
Full cloud deployment exists entirely in the cloud environment. Applications are developed in the cloud or migrated to it.
Hybrid cloud deployment allows existing infrastructure and applications to use cloud computing technology without full migration. Hybrid deployments allow existing products to adopt some major benefits of cloud computing without sacrificing an existing internal system.
What Is a Public Cloud?
A public cloud is a cloud computing service, like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud, that is open to anyone to purchase and use. Typically, public cloud charges for the resources consumed during a specific billing period.
Conversely, a private cloud is a cloud computing environment only accessible by certain people. Private clouds are sometimes referred to as an internal or corporate cloud, because they provide the same benefits of a public cloud—infrastructure, scalability, cost management—without as much exposure to the negatives, such as security and privacy issues.
What becomes slightly confusing is that many major organizations use the same cloud computing services as the public. For instance, you can head to Amazon and create an EC2 instance right now. At the same time, Netflix, Twitch, LinkedIn, Facebook, and many more global tech companies are also using the same cloud computing technology to power those sites and services you use daily.
At a basic level, everyone is using the same cloud computing services. It is just different models, deployments, and products separating them.
What Are the Advantages to Cloud Computing?
There are several advantages to cloud computing for end-users.
The main advantage, and one that most people are familiar with is that your work and data is available on any computer. Once you login to your Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, or otherwise, you can access the same files and documents as if you were sitting at your desktop.
Cloud computing extends into other services like Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides, allowing you to start working at one terminal and finish at another, with very little difference between either.
Cloud computing has also changed personal hardware requirements, too. Instead of dragging a powerful laptop everywhere, users can opt for cloud services. Users of all kinds can opt for smaller, less power-hungry devices safe in the knowledge that at least some of their work will take place using a cloud service, predominantly via a browser or web app.
A prime example of this is Google’s Chrome OS and Chromebook models. Often much cheaper than a similarly sized laptop, Chromebooks are a cloud-focused computer that’s primarily aimed at users on the go and the education market.
Another facet of cloud computing is the vast quantities of cloud storage now available to end-users. Uploading and storing hundreds of gigabytes of photos is now commonplace. It is a cheap and easy way to backup your digital files.
Are There Any Disadvantages to Cloud Computing?
The biggest disadvantage of cloud computing is requiring an internet connection to access certain services. If you haven’t synced your files, you could find yourself locked out of them at an inopportune time. Similarly, if your internet connection suffers an outage, getting into those cloud-based files and services is impossible.
Adding to internet downtime, latency plays a significant role in cloud computing.
Also, many of the most popular cloud services are completely free, which on the one hand is great for consumers. However, on the other hand, many services hoover up user data, in turn creating security and privacy issues.
By extension, cloud computing services also remove control from the user. You can download your photos and sync your files to your computer. But you don’t control the service, nor do you own it, regardless of your subscription or otherwise. If the service goes offline, you’d better hope you receive ample warning to extract your data. Depending on the cloud computing service, finding an alternative can be difficult.
Cloud Computing Is Everywhere
Cloud computing and cloud services are everywhere. Global research firm, Gartner, estimates that worldwide public cloud spending will increase from $182 billion in 2018 to a whopping $331 billion in 2022.
“Cloud services are definitely shaking up the industry,” according to Sid Nag, research vice president at Gartner. “At Gartner, we know of no vendor or service provider today whose business model offerings and revenue growth are not influenced by the increasing adoption of cloud-first strategies in organizations. What we see now is only the beginning, though.”
Even with the phenomenal amount of spending on cloud computing, the market will continue to grow. The introduction of faster internet connections across the globe and the imminent expansion of 5G technology provides the opportunity for even more services to switch to a cloud model.