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From: Dan Cross <>
To: ron minnich <>
Cc: COFF <>
Subject: [COFF] Re: [TUHS] the wheel of reincarnation goes sideways
Date: Wed, 8 Mar 2023 14:52:43 -0500	[thread overview]
Message-ID: <> (raw)
In-Reply-To: <>

[bumping to COFF]

On Wed, Mar 8, 2023 at 2:05 PM ron minnich <> wrote:
> The wheel of reincarnation discussion got me to thinking:
> What I'm seeing is reversing the rotation of the wheel of reincarnation. Instead of pulling the task (e.g. graphics) from a special purpose device back into the general purpose domain, the general purpose computing domain is pushed into the special purpose device.
> I first saw this almost 10 years ago with a WLAN modem chip that ran linux on its 4 core cpu, all of it in a tiny package. It was faster, better, and cheaper than its traditional embedded predecessor -- because the software stack was less dedicated and single-company-created. Take Linux, add some stuff, voila! WLAN modem.
> Now I'm seeing it in peripheral devices that have, not one, but several independent SoCs, all running Linux, on one card. There's even been a recent remote code exploit on, ... an LCD panel.
> Any of these little devices, with the better part of a 1G flash and a large part of 1G DRAM, dwarfs anything Unix ever ran on. And there are more and more of them, all over the little PCB in a laptop.
> The evolution of platforms like laptops to becoming full distributed systems continues.
> The wheel of reincarnation spins counter clockwise -- or sideways?

About a year ago, I ran across an email written a decade or more prior
on some mainframe mailing list where someone wrote something like,
"wow! It just occurred to me that my Athlon machine is faster than the
ES/3090-600J I used in 1989!" Some guy responded angrily, rising to
the wounded honor of IBM, raving about how preposterous this was
because the mainframe could handle a thousand users logged in at one
time and there's no way this Linux box could ever do that.

I was struck by the absurdity of that; it's such a ridiculous
non-comparison. The mainframe had layers of terminal concentrators,
3270 controllers, IO controllers, etc, etc, and a software ecosystem
that made heavy use of all of that, all to keep user interaction _off_
of the actual CPU (I guess freeing that up to run COBOL programs in
batch mode...); it's not as though every time a mainframe user typed
something into a form on their terminal it interrupted the primary

Of course, the first guy was right: the AMD machine probably _was_
more capable than a 3090 in terms of CPU performance, RAM and storage
capacity, and raw bandwidth between the CPU and IO subsystems. But the
3090 was really more like a distributed system than the Athlon box
was, with all sorts of offload capabilities. For that matter, a
thousand users probably _could_ telnet into the Athlon system. With
telnet in line mode, it'd probably even be decently responsive.

So often it seems to me like end-user systems are just continuing to
adopt "large system" techniques. Nothing new under the sun.

> I'm no longer sure the whole idea of the wheel or reincarnation is even applicable.

I often feel like the wheel has fallen onto its side, and we're
continually picking it up from the edge and flipping it over, ad

        - Dan C.

       reply	other threads:[~2023-03-08 19:53 UTC|newest]

Thread overview: 24+ messages / expand[flat|nested]  mbox.gz  Atom feed  top
     [not found] <>
2023-03-08 19:52 ` Dan Cross [this message]
2023-03-08 20:18   ` [COFF] " Tom Ivar Helbekkmo via COFF
2023-03-09  1:22   ` [COFF] Re: [TUHS] " John Cowan
2023-03-09 19:55     ` Dan Cross
2023-03-09 20:09       ` Larry McVoy
2023-03-11 20:32         ` Dan Cross
2023-03-11 23:28       ` Bakul Shah
     [not found]   ` <>
2023-03-13 22:34     ` Dan Cross
2023-07-05 21:48       ` Dan Cross
2023-07-05 23:58         ` Grant Taylor via COFF
2023-07-06  1:02           ` Dave Horsfall
2023-07-06 16:47             ` Grant Taylor via COFF
2023-07-06  2:35           ` Dan Cross
2023-07-06  4:18           ` Robert Stanford via COFF
2023-07-06 16:53             ` Grant Taylor via COFF
2023-07-06 17:54               ` Adam Thornton
2023-07-09 14:55           ` Michael Parson
2023-08-01  9:52             ` Michael Cardell Widerkrantz
2023-08-01  9:49         ` Michael Cardell Widerkrantz
2023-08-01 15:55           ` Dan Cross
2023-08-01 16:27             ` Grant Taylor via COFF
2023-08-02 16:07               ` Dan Cross
2023-08-02 20:58                 ` Grant Taylor via COFF
2023-08-02 21:16                   ` Dan Cross

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