IBM: Size Does Matter

Long known for its hulking mainframes, IBM is going small. Really, really small. PAT PILCHER explains.

IBM’s name is synonymous with hulking great mainframes. Some even say the letters IBM stand for It’s a Big Machine (another fun fact: Go one letter forward in the alphabet from I, B and M and see what it spells out – think 2001: A Space Odyssey.)

Big Blue must have been listening, because they’ve just gone and created a world record for the world’s smallest computer. When I say small, I’m really not kidding – their tiny computer is smaller than a single grain of salt.

Witchdoctor’s proposed Doom gaming rig, powered by IBM’s tiny computer

As your significant other has probably already told you, size doesn’t matter, it’s what you do with it that counts, and IBM’s wee computer has the compute power of a circa 1990 Pentium. It could, in theory, run a game of Doom. Getting your meat sticks to work the WASD and CTRL keys may be a challenge though as you’d most likely need a an electron microscope.

Here’s the really clever thing: It is so cheap to make (US$0.10 per computer), that you could literally put one anywhere to add intelligence to even the most mundane tasks (or even a sly game of Solitaire).

IBM say that their wee computer could act as a data source for blockchain applications. It could be pasted into a shipping carton or documents to track the shipment of goods and detect fraud too.

This is only the beginning say IBM. Soon ultra-tiny computers could form cryptographic anchors and will be embedded in a host of everyday objects, pushing blockchain into the real-world.

IBM researchers have yet to confirm a date for commercial production but are testing prototypes.

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