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News Items April, May, June 2002

Worldwide Computer Sales Decline in 2001 (5/6/02)

New Speed Record for a Fiber Optic (5/2/02)

Japan Boasts World's Fastest Supercomputer (4/22/02)

Worldwide Computer Sales Decline in 2001

Computer shipments have declined for the second time in the industry's history, though Dell Computer and the Asian market continue to expand their influence.

Shipments of PCs declined 5.1 percent worldwide in 2001 compared with the previous year, according to preliminary figures released Thursday by market researcher IDC. At the same time, shipments in the United States dropped by 12.2 percent.

For the fourth quarter, worldwide shipments dropped 6.1 percent from the previous year and U.S. shipments dropped 8.5 percent. However, sales picked up globally and in the United States compared with the third quarter.

Gartner, a competing market researcher, released results Thursday that were slightly more optimistic, tallying a 4.6 percent decline in worldwide shipments to 128 million units. Meanwhile, U.S. shipments were down 11.1 percent to 44 million units, according to Gartner. The figures include shipments of desktops, notebooks and Intel-based servers.

According to Gartner, 2001 marked only the second time the PC market has shrunk. The market also contracted in 1985. http://news.com.com/2100-1040-817659.html

Comment: The population of the world is about 6 billion. This means that 2001 microcomcomputer sales were about one per 47 people, and in 2000 about one per 45 people. This data suggests that there are close to 600 million microcomputers in the world, or about one per 10 people if they were evenly distributed. The K-12 school system in the US now has about one microcomptuer per five students.

New Speed Record for a Fiber Optic

Bell Labs, the research arm of Lucent Technologies, said on Friday that it has doubled the distance and the speed at which data can be sent over long-haul telecommunications networks.

The development will eventually make it cheaper for telecom service providers to send more data on fiber-optic networks over longer distances.

Bell Labs said that, in a demonstration, it sent a massive 2.56 terabits of data per second over a distance of 2,500 miles, the equivalent of sending the contents of 2,560,000 novels every second across the United States.

One terabit is a little over one trillion bits of data.

The previous record was 1.6 terabits per second over 1,250 miles, or half the distance. (http://zdnet.com.com/2100-1105-867081.html )

Comment: Such progress is part of the steady improvement of the Global Library that we call the Web. We are moving toward students (and, of course, others) having high bandwidth connectivity to this Global Library. This means that as educators we need to be figuring out needed changes in curriculum content, instructional processes, and assessment. How long will it be before students are given good access to computers and the Web while they are being assessed?

Japan Boasts World's Fastest Supercomputer

The NEC Earth Simulator, which was designed to create a "virtual planet Earth" for climate predictions, is now touted as the world's fastest supercomputer, according to a ranking released Saturday. The NEC machine is housed at the Yokohama Institute for Earth Sciences and takes up space equal to the size of four tennis courts. Operating at a speed of 35,600 gigaflops, it's almost five times faster than last year's top machine, the IBM ASCI White, which runs at a speed of 7,226 gigaflops. A gigaflop equals a billion mathematical operations per second. (AP 20 Apr 2002) http://apnews.excite.com/article/
20020421/D7J107MO0.html (NewsScan Daily, 22 April 2002)

Comment: This is an example of the "more than outstanding" rate of progress in computer technology that we have come to take for granted. A gain by a factor of five in one year. Wow! All of the new supercomputers are constructed by use of a large number of microprocessors. Conceptually, this is an easy enough idea. A new microcomputer nowadays may well have a speed of a billion Floating Point Operations Per Second. One can imagine having many thousands of these microcomputers all working on one problem at the same time. But then, the details get fuzzy. How does one divide a problem into pieces so that each of thousands of different pieces can be worked on simultaneously? How does one combine results on the pieces that interact with each other?

In special problems (such as weather forecasting) people have developed answers that work well. This progress is gradually carrying over to the types of multiprocessor microcomputers that ordinary people can afford to buy. Part of the path toward faster microcomputers is the multi processor route. The microcomputer of the future will be a multiprocessor microcomputer.

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