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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Parallel Computing

So this announcement about parallel computing and Microsoft and money to step up the research is intriguing. I should be finishing an article for Technology & Learning right now, which is on a fascinating topic - the state of distance learning today (and it really is different than in the 90's) (will be in the May 2008 issue) but parallel computing as a tangent is pretty compelling.

A quote from the article above:

"if researchers can use programming to harness the capabilities of multi-core machines, it will give mobile devices the computing performance that today comes only from supercomputers."

So if parallel computing becomes a major factor in the future, and I think it will, and if computers can truly process multiple strands of complex code simultaneously, how much more will be possible in our day-to-day lives that we don't have right now. For instance, could I be compiling lots of relevant research on distance learning at the same time while writing this and while also researching parallel computing and maybe also getting my taxes filed and of course as always having Twitter running in the background ... and all on my cell phone. Is this different than multitasking windows and widgets? Is the real limit the human brain? Even though we use the term multitasking in reality what we're doing is just fast task switching because we only can do one thing at a time. How can we maximize parallel processing if we have to be the triggers for the processing and we can only start one thing at a time because we can't truly multitask?

I have to say I don't get it yet. But I do sense this is going to be big. What would the late Mark Weiser, who coined the term "ubiquitous computing" and his vision of the future with "tabs" and calm technology everywhere, think of parallel computing.

This feels like the Next Big Thing.

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