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starship-design: photonic computers

Curtis Manges writes:
 > 	It's funny, I was just writing to a friend a couple weeks ago and telling
 > him that my idea of the perfect computer (or at least a future kind of
 > computer) would be the Magic Mirror. It hangs on the wall, and when it's
 > off it just looks like a mirror (though there are other possibilities, I'm
 > sure), but when you want to use it, you just talk to it and tell it what to
 > do, and it does it. I think we're getting closer to that.

I was going to mention this just after the reference to the
article on the very slow starship design, and coincidentally
enough this reminds me again.

Has anyone read Gene Wolfe's "Long Sun" series (_Nightside the
Long Sun_, _Lake of the Long Sun_, _Calde' of the Long Sun_,
_Exodus from the Long Sun_)?  It's an interesting (although
perhaps not easy-to-read) series set on a generation starship
which seems to have stagnated a bit.  The original computer
personalities that apparently ran the ship have degenerated, and
so has the culture of the people who worshiped these
personalities in their religion, and as one comes to see through
the series, the ship is only barely running too.  And they have
"magic mirror" style computers as you describe.

 > 	As to current rocket flights, I think I read somewhere that they're still
 > using 386's on new spacecraft . . . they just better not be running Win 98.
 > 	Keep looking up,

I believe there is a radiation-hardened version of the 80386
which is used on some recent spacecraft.  A variety of processors 
are used, though (for example, the Mars Pathfinder lander used a
version of the IBM RS/6000 processor and the Sojourner Rover used 
an Intel 8085 processor).

And scarily enough, part of the computer network on the
International Space Station is to be based on a Windows NT file
server and Windows 95.  Although some of the more critical
software will be running under Solaris x86, at least.