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Another of Arthur C. Clarke's Greatest Mistakes 
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Heinlein Nexus
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Post Another of Arthur C. Clarke's Greatest Mistakes
As we all know, 2001 presented an unnaturally rosy picture of the future, propelled by an unprecedented technological revolution that had brought us to the brink of space and even reasonable extrapolation assured that utopia awaited off-planet.

The blunder I am referring to is, of course, the predictive fault analysis of the AE-235 antenna unit. Granted, HAL was lying, but the fact that the astronauts believed him indicates that they expected this capability of him.

Whereas today, we have virtually no ability to pinpoint existing failures to a single component, let alone future ones. To pull a purely hypothetical example out of thin air, a PC with two internal hard drives and external SATA and USB drives can suddenly start failing with the cursor jerking around the screen and repeated complaints that the UPS is connecting and disconnecting and on reboot claim that there is no boot media until the external (non boot) disk is reconnected. The chicken bones and goat entrails that pass for modern diagnostic tools have suggested maybe a motherboard problem, maybe a hard disk problem, maybe a disk controller, and added that it's so much easier just to throw large sums of money at Intel to replace the lot. Amazing imagination I have, huh?

(I don't think we have any sarcasm-impaired readers, but in any case: :twisted: )


Tue Nov 10, 2009 1:21 pm
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Post Re: Another of Arthur C. Clarke's Greatest Mistakes
It's possible to diagnose PCs more accurately than that, but they are prone to having a fault that affects the system generally and makes diagnosis difficult.

I rarely have to look at more than two items to find and fix a fault.

Most of the diagnosis software went from useful to essential to psychic to useless. I don't know precisely why. I had a couple of Norton tools that were the equivalent of a stethoscope and x-ray machine, and then I got one that took half an hour to run and produce useless results. They've never recovered, AFAICT.

You have to get into bigger hardware before you find hardware fault detection and reporting built in. Given the short obsolescence cycle, price wars and consumer demand, I don't think we'll ever see the equivalent in PCs. Some server builds have hardware fault management and reporting, but they're typically 2-3 times the price for equivalent performance and often some limitations (such as prior-generation video ports).

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Tue Nov 10, 2009 3:53 pm
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Post Re: Another of Arthur C. Clarke's Greatest Mistakes
PeterScott wrote:
As we all know, 2001 presented an unnaturally rosy picture of the future[...])


"In the 21st century, trust between us and our robots will break down, with highly unfortunate consequences for all concerned."

Doesn't seem all that rosy to me. Does seem fairly accurate, though.

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Tue Nov 10, 2009 9:10 pm
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Post Re: Another of Arthur C. Clarke's Greatest Mistakes
JamesGifford wrote:
You have to get into bigger hardware before you find hardware fault detection and reporting built in.

In the mid 1990s I heard a story told about Tandem Computers' tech support. Their machines were famous for being military-grade hardened and *never* going down. But, sure enough, after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, they got a call from a customer reporting, "Our computer is down."

The support rep didn't believe him and, fortunately, Tandem was able to connect remotely to any supported machine and run diagnostics. Sure enough, the machine responded with no error indications, and the tech support guy reported this to the customer.

"Oh, it's working fine," he acknowledged; "It *fell over* in the earthquake, and we need someone to come out and pick it back up."

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Wed Nov 11, 2009 1:30 pm
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