Digital Life

New computing era begins

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We have entered the third era of computing.

So said Michael Rhodin, senior VP of the IBM software solutions group, speaking at the IBM PartnerWorld Leadership Conference, in Las Vegas.

He said the first era was the tabulating era, when computers punched cards. Rhodin said they were "machines that learnt how to count. They were mechanical."

In the 1950s, he said, things started to change. The advent of electronics allowed for computers to be programmed. With programmable computers, we are able to program a computer to do something, and get a consistent result each time. He said all the computing we currently do is based on that premise.

"Now it's the beginning of the cognitive systems era. Machines that are not programmed, machines that are taught, and learn," he said. In the new computing era, computers will be able to "connect the dots" by attaching information to other relevant information.

Rhodin mentioned the company's Watson computing system, which recently won the game show Jeopardy. Combining the elements the company has been focusing on at the conference, namely social, big data analytics, mobile and cloud, computers like Watson will be able to perform functions like giving health diagnoses.

"The promise is very real. All this information, these systems, are going to help us bring this new era of computing to fruition," he said.

In 50 years, we are going to look back at this time and see an explosion of information, and a new computing era, he said.

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