[extropy-chat] Plenty of room at the bottom

Jeff Davis jrd1415 at yahoo.com
Wed Mar 15 07:39:10 UTC 2006

Readers of this list will be familiar with Drexler's
deference to Feynman's 1959 "Plenty of room at the
bottom" (http://www.zyvex.com/nanotech/feynman.html)
talk, as predating his own (Drexler's) awakening to
the nanotech idea.

Today, I ran across Asimov's "The Last Question" 
(http://adin.dyndns.org/adin/TheLastQ.htm), (Damien
pointed me to it a couple of years ago, but I only
just got around to finding it -- by accident) and was
more than a little surprised to find that Asimov beat
both Drexler and Feynman to the nanotech idea.  

In "The Last Question" published in 1954, Asimov
writes about a series of ever more compact -- ie
dimensionally smaller -- more sophisticated computers:

The first generation computer fills an underground

The second generation is smaller:
"...In place of transistors, had come molecular valves
so that even the largest Planetary AC [Automatic
Computer]could be put into a space only half the
volume of a spaceship."

Of the third generation computer he writes:

"... It [the Galactic AC] was on a little world of its
own, a spider webbing of force-beams holding the
matter within which surges of submesons took the place
of the old clumsy molecular valves. ..."

Then, the forth generation computer is described as,

"...a shining globe, two feet across, difficult to
see."  Most of which is in hyperspace. "In what form
it is there I cannot imagine."


Clearly Asimov quickly came to understand the
transistor's -- invented in 1947 -- miniaturizing
implications for electronics.  But more than that he
also foresaw with striking accuracy the future
trajectory for computers.

Check out the story to see just how accurate.

Best, Jeff Davis

   "Everything's hard till you know how to do it."
                           Ray Charles

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