star trek the next generation

The Enterprises Computing Power

Surprisingly, the Starship Enterprise computers use Intel 486/66 DX2 processors. It turns out that in 1995, Intel finally won the microprocessor wars. Since Pentium was never a serious contender in this war, the 486/66 DX2 remained the most powerful processor to be mass -roduced by Intel.

Like any large monolithic corporation, Intel proceeded to reap profits, and failed to invest in R&D. Demoralized, its chip designers left in droves to sell surfboards in the Carribean, joining those from other companies already left jobless by the destruction of the rest of the industry. Eventually, no one was left on Earth who knew how to design a CPU chip. This explains many things you see on ST:TNG:

  1. No Robots: The 486/66 is not suitable for use as an embedded controller. Instead of attempting to invest in recreating the long lost art of microprocessor design, the 24th century society decided that instead, they would create jobs in space. Hence the plethora of humans on the enterprise performing menial tasks, like responding to the captain's "Engage" command. (They attend Starfleet for years for the opportunity to press that little button). See also note 4, below.

  2. The Disk Farm on the Bridge: The physical memory addressing limitations of the 486 require huge amounts of swapspace to be available. One thing never learned by programmers, even in the 24th century, was how to write memory efficient software. Thus, massive disk farms supporting massive amounts of swapping.

  3. Central Computers: While Intel sold the chips, IBM rebounded from its 20th century slump to be the computer system supplier of choice for Star Fleet. The computer system in the Enterprise is a 12th generation Mainframe computer built using Intel 486/66 DX2 chips. This Mainframe is housed in a glass enclosed room near the battle bridge. Network communication is provided via SNA links to various remote sites throughout the Enterprise. It should be noted that the voice recognition system merely converts speech to JCL. This system was donated to the Federation by the Vulcans, who felt that programming in JCL was "just not logical."

  4. Large Crew: While it has been demonstrated that the ship can be run with just one or two crew members (actually, two is the suggested minimum according to Starfleet Regulations - one to look out the viewscreen and say "Engage", and one to press the button), many, many people are required to perform the daily operations on the central computer. Most of the crew are computer operators. This further explains why the same people keep getting tapped for "away team" duties. Most of the crew have not been trained in other than 486/66 DX2 operations, or in specific response to spoken commands.

  5. "Live Long and Prosper": While most humans believe this to be a Vulcan saying of ancient origin, in fact it was an Intel business philosophy published in their 2183 Annual Report. In this same year, the first joint software venture between Intel and the Vulcan Empire was signed. The Vulcan Representatives loved the Intel slogan, and began using it as a personal greeting. This was initially popularlized by Vulcan software peddlers who wanted to impress clients with their Intel association, but it soon became the greeting of choice in Vulcan society. This is similar to the common human greeting of 2233: "I love what you do for me, Toyota." (We are not certain why this greeting became popular, or what exactly it means. We suspect it relates to LaToyota Jackson, a popular singer from the 20th century who's brother was suspected of child molestation.)

  6. English as a Universal Language: The partnership between Intel and IBM caused a resurgence of the ancient computer programming language COBOL. The Vulcans, who despised JCL and RPG only slighly less than C++, found COBOL to be the least distasteful compromise. The propagation of Vulcan-written COBOL programs throughout the known galaxy forced most societies to learn English, at least as a second language.
star trek the next generation
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