Saturday, February 11, 2006

Virtual networked bits

Everybody knows what a bit is, but what is it really, and what do we really mean when we talk about a bit?

I would distinguish between physical bits and virtual bits.

A physical bit is the actual 0/1, on/off condition in a physical media, whether it be in RAM, on a hard-drive, a signal level in a wire, or even photons in a fiber-optic cable.

Obviously physical bits are important since we couldn't do any computing without them, but what interests me is the virtual bits which comprise the information that we are processing.

For example, I have a word processing document. The virtual bits that are used to represent the totality of my Word document are what really matter to me. If I load the document and save it, a completely distinct set of physical bits will be stored, possibly at a completely different location on the hard-drive. And if I post the document on the Web or email it to somebody, the virtual bits are still the same even though they are stored in replicated physical bits in multiple locations, possibly even around the world.

And I don't even think about the physical bits in RAM where my document is temporarily stored while I'm working on it, unless of course something "happens" and I lose my changes, then I care very much about those physical bits that, unfortunately, are gone.

The point is that unfortunately, given today's technology, we do have to care, and care too much, about all of those physical bits, when it is really only the virtual bits that we should care about.

So, I'm thinking about what I call virtual networked bits, which basically means storing virtual bits redundantly around the global network, and doing it automatically (in the same spirit with which parity or ECC bits are handled automatically), so that we, the users, never again need worry about physical bits when all we really care about is our virtual bits.

Obviously there are lots of details to be dealt with, but that's the concept of in a nutshell.

Please feel free to encourage your favorite technologists to pursue support for virtual networked bits as widely as possible.

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