July 19, 2002

Ahhh, Fast Company’s website is finally responding, so I can post a link to their article on SMASH.

No, it’s not the next WWF or WCW show. SMASH is an acronym IBM thought up to describe their vision for how software should be written, and how computers should work in the future.

It’s a little confusing, because their vision has expanded and changed since they adopted the “SMASH” acronym, and has morphed into a new concept. “SMASH” stnads for “Simple, MAny, Self-Healing,” which reflects the idea that software should be broken down into a lot of simple, robust pieces. Historically, a system is much more powerful and flexible if it’s decentralized and each piece works easily.

However, as I said, IBM’s views have expanded into the idea of “autonomic computing,” which is best illustrated with a quote:

[IBM’s next big computer] will have the circuitry — the hardware — necessary to monitor itself. It will have a primitive form of self-awareness — the software — to understand how it is performing and to identify failures. And it will have the problem-solving ability and the physical components to reroute work and internal communications when things aren’t working right, or as processors fail.

The ultimate goal of autonomic functioning is to be able to tell computers what you want them to do and have them work out the details. In other words, to create a world where strategy and implementation are inseparable.

— Charles Fishman writing in Fast Company, August 2002

It’s undeniably a compelling idea: Designing software so that it can make reasonably intelligent decisions about how to continue functioning when presented with a problem.

The idea is not unlike the computers in Star Trek, as described in the original IBM manifesto about autonomic computing:

“Captain Kirk and his crew were getting information from their computing systems by asking simple questions, and listening to straightforward answers — all without a single I/T administrator to be seen on the ship.”
— Paul Horn

I could get behind that bandwagon.

More Murmur artwork.

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