Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Heterotech Computing and Electronics

One issue that could adversely affect the widespread adoption and use of electronics is disruption of supply chains of the conventional commercial entities manufacturing them. Despite the potential reuse of materials and e-waste from landfills and second hand shops, there are heterotechnical alternatives (if less efficient for now).

Now, computers and electronics are two separate things, as Babbage engines and the abacus are both computing technologies that do not require electrical energy. More exotic alternatives, such as biocomputers, may integrate other forms, but for purposes of this entry, we will focus on electronic computers.

Copper and iron may be used to make rudimentary analog components, even with antiquated manufacturing techniques (e.g. blacksmithing). Even microcircuitry might be manufactured in similar ways, such as with silver nanoparticle using 3D printers and that's before considering graphene.

The primary issues of these heterotechnologies relative to conventional CMOS are power, scale, and computing time required. They would be bulkier and require exotic feedstocks (in the case of bacterial computing), making information recovery and storage a bit more of a hassle. Likewise, the risk of utilizing bacteria is an unexpected die-off or competitor could wipe out your data. The solution, therefore, would likely involve directing them to make lots of backups.

The flip side, though, is they'd need less electrical power. Maybe a small turbine by a stream, windmill, crude chemical battery, or even hand crack could be sufficient (alongside glucose or lactate for our single-celled friends). The resultant apparatus would resemble a byzantine mess of vats, tubes, wires, and boxes, like something from a mad scientist's lab. Perhaps combined with a similarly bizarre ham radio, it could be connected with others. One possibility is perhaps a computer virus infecting a network becomes quite literal. It certainly is a fun sci-fi concept.

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