Tangled in the Threads

Jon Udell, February 23, 2000

Highlights from the BYTE.com classic archive

A bit of searching turns up plenty of oldies but goodies

This month marks the first anniversary of the new BYTE.com. Of course, BYTE.com didn't start with a clean slate in 1999. It carried forward a five-year archive of BYTE Magazine content. Although much of that material is now dated, there is also much that's still useful and interesting. BYTE has always taken the long view, and many of the deep issues it addressed -- such as distributed computing, high-bandwidth networking, parallel processing, and digital identity -- are still current today. Here, then, is an annotated guide to some of BYTE.com's archival gems.

Bob Orfali, Dan Harkey, and Jeri Edwards: The Intergalactic Web

One of the most enduringly popular articles in the archive is Intergalactic Client/Server Computing, by Bob Orfali, Dan Harkey, and Jeri Edwards. Published in April, 1995, as part of a special report on distributed computing, it outlines a sweeping vision for an "object Web." We're not there yet, but recent developments -- including Sun's J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) and Microsoft's BizTalk and SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) -- are important steps toward the object Web visualized in this trailblazing article.

Jim Gray and Jeri Edwards: Transaction Processing

Scale Up with TP Monitors, in that same April 1995 special report, details the history and evolution of TP monitors -- systems that guarantee transactional integrity while at the same time supporting the kinds of massive loads that today's Web-based e-commerce routinely generates. Shortly after he co-authored this article, Jim Gray went on to become the czar of MTS, the Microsoft Transaction Server.

Tom Halfhill: IA-64 and Deep Blue

In his December 1997 cover story, Beyond Pentium II, ace chip analyst Tom Halfhill delivered an in-depth look at the architecture of the Merced (now, Itanium) processor. The story remains an excellent guide to some of IA-64's key features, such as predication and speculative loading.

Of all the Tom Halfhill stories in the archive, though, I think my favorite is his July 1997 feature, Searching for Deep Blue, an analysis of IBM's hotrod chess computer that beat Garry Kasparov.

Where's Tom now? He's tracking developments in embedded processors for the Microprocessor Report.

Tom Thompson: Touring Fab 6, Elements of Design

In February 1997, Tom Thompson visited Digital Semiconductor's Fab 6, in Hudson, Massachusetts, and filed this wonderful report called How to Make the World's Fastest CPUs. Over the years, Tom wrote prolifically about microprocessors and about his favorite platform, the Macintosh, and you can find many of these articles in the BYTE.com archive. Occasionally, he'd step back and take a historical and philosophical view of technology. Such an article was The Elements of Design, which reveals the inspirations that led to four different technological innovations.

Mike Hurwicz: Enterprise Directories

Now that Win2K is shipping, we'll begin to find out what Active Directory really can do. In his December 1997 feature, Reach Out and Touch Everyone, Mike Hurwicz delivers a balanced analysis of how technology and politics intertwine in the realm of enterprise directories.

John Montgomery: Satellite Networking

In The Orbiting Internet (November, 1997), John Montgomery looks skyward, reviewing the technologies that enable space-based broadband networking.

Oliver Sharp: Grand Challenges

What's CPU horsepower for, anyway, besides running the next generation of Microsoft Office? In The Grand Challenges, Oliver Sharp considers some of the scientific applications -- weather forecasting, aerodynamics -- that have voracious appetites for computational cycles.

Dick Pountain: Exotic Computing

It's hard to pick a favorite Dick Pountain story. His eclectic view of the computing world led him to explore a bewildering range of fascinating subjects. Some that I remember fondly include:

Peter Wayner: Digital Identity

In his June 1997 cover story, Who Goes There?, Peter Wayner reviews the panoply of PKI (public key infrastructure) technologies that support both encryption and digital authentication. Although these technologies have been implemented in the mainstream browsers for years now, they're still not yet widely used.

Tom Yager: Samba and Veritas

When he worked for BYTE, Tom Yager produced a staggering number of articles on a wide variety of subjects, with particular focus on desktop video and UNIX. Two articles that showcase his fluent style, and remain useful references, are his March 1997 tutorial on Samba, and his February 1995 piece on the Veritas journaling file system.

Andy Reinhardt: Smart Networks

In his October 1994 cover story, The Network with Smarts, Andy looked at AT&T's PersonaLink, a forward-looking agent-based service built around General Magic's Telescript technology. PersonaLink and Telescript are just distant memories now, but the problems they addressed are still very much with us, as is the vision outlined in this story.

Earlier that year, Andy published a massive cover story called Building the Data Highway. It predicted that by 2001 we'd see IPng in wide use, HDTV, switched digital video, and fiber to the home running end-to-end ATM. Hmm. That's next year...we'd better get cracking!

Jon Udell (http://udell.roninhouse.com/) was BYTE Magazine's executive editor for new media, the architect of the original www.byte.com, and author of BYTE's Web Project column. He's now an independent Web/Internet consultant, and is the author of Practical Internet Groupware, from O'Reilly and Associates. His recent BYTE.com columns are archived at http://www.byte.com/index/threads

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