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Likens: Current technology does not stand the test of time

Staff Reporter

Published: Thursday, November 29, 2012

Updated: Thursday, November 29, 2012 00:11

Provided by Taylor Likens

Provided by Taylor Likens

I may not be one to drown in my own superiority complex, but there are certain things I can claim to be completely above. Namely puns. I will therefore not be making any cracks about how the Wolverhampton Instrument for Teaching Computing from Harwell (WITCH) is wicked, or any other sort of nonsense. Enthusiasts of the pun are encouraged to write to the Houstonian.

I wouldn’t be wrong in praising it, however, as this 61-year-old device is once again up and running in the National Museum of Computing after decades of sitting disassembled in a closet. The fact that the oldest functioning electronic computer in history is still chugging along like a 2.5 ton Energizer bunny is enough to deeply enrage anyone who has ever had an Xbox 360 “red ring” after two months.

As you may have already guessed, the WITCH’s survival is largely owed to its simplicity. With such a relatively primitive design, there are less malfunctions, mistakes and accidents that could occur. Reportedly, the WITCH was once left to run for over 10 days straight, unmonitored and unkempt, and was still computing when the operators came back from their vacation.

Although there is seldom optimism to be had in world news--and this is certainly a breath of fresh air for those of you tired of hearing about lawsuits, homicides, and reality TV--this may muster up some disturbing revelations about where we are headed.

We should find it disturbing that each big advancement seems to usher in a whole new plethora of happy accidents. This was fine back when computers weren’t dominating our workplaces, academia and social lives, but today it’s virtually impossible to peel a banana, pass a kidney stone or turn your head gradually to the left without having to log into something and verify you are in fact not a spammer.

The problem: as time passes, there is less and less touchable, visible existence to our gadgets and information. This type of technology is known as cloud computing. Rather than having documents, accounts and information constrained to just a single device or computer, cloud technology is an ever growing feature that enables convenient distribution between platforms. The drawback, however, is that this information doesn’t necessarily exist in any one place that you yourself can touch or hold, meaning it is more easily corrupted or stolen.

Although it may seem practically utopian to have constant access to your information, it still has to physically exist somewhere, meaning that the power to protect and regulate your information would be almost completely out of your hands. If a meteor crashes into the server in Idaho holding all of your data from Call of Duty 4, it’s tough luck. If your Netflix gets hacked, you’d better empty your bank account, because it’s not unlikely they could hop between devices and accounts until they get something useful.

Stealing from your iPhone? Fifteen minutes and a 13-year-old 4chan user. Stealing from WITCH? Four men, a crowbar, a wheelbarrow, and a lot of luck. Breaking your iPhone? Sweet and sour sauce. Breaking WITCH? A Volvo.

Very few people would say that technology isn’t steering us towards the better, but most would agree that we damn well better be careful about it.

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