Monday, February 12, 2007

The New Soul of a New Machine

While I was on vacation a few weeks ago in Panorama, British Columbia, I had a chance to re-read a favorite book, Tracy Kidder's Pulitzer Prize winning The Soul of a New Machine. Originally published in 1981, it describes the engineers who developed Data General's Eclipse MV/8000, a 32-bit minicomputer. I had originally read this book in the summer of 1983. I had completed the sophomore year in the engineering program at Harvey Mudd College and was working for the summer at TRW's Space Systems Group when a co-worker recommended the book.

I was completed enthralled by the Kidder's description engineer's passion in creating the "Eagle" computer and resolved to change to redirect my studies to computer engineering. I've been working on marketing, developing, and selling computers ever since.

What I was wondering was, what is the equivalent of the Soul of a New Machine today? The superminicompter segment that Kidder was chronicling in the book is no longer around today, replaced with lower cost, microprocessor based servers on the low and midrange segments and mainframe computers (still around!) at the high end. While there are still a few new microprocessor designs around such as Intel's Itanium processor, Sun's Niagra design and IBM's Power line of processors, for the most part, developing new computers is kind of like assembling a complex Lego set with parts from various vendors, albeit much more involved.

Is today's Soul of a New Machine a hardware/software solution product like the Apple iPod, Nintendo Wii or Playstation 3? Or is it some types of Internet-based Web 2.0 applications?

What do you think is the today's Soul of a New Machine? Post your ideas here.

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