Frontiers of Green Computing

07Mar08

One of my favorite science fiction authors from back when I read science fiction was Norman Spinrad. His book of short stories, The Last Hurrah of the Golden Horde, made a lasting impression on my 15-year-old self, partially because it included generous helpings of sex and drugs along with wild flights of imagination.

But another of his books, Songs from the Stars, crossed my mind the other day. It contains one of the most charming utopias I’ve encountered. In a post-nuclear-holocaust world, the only permissable energy sources are the “White” (renewable) sources of muscle, sun, wind and water. This renewable-energy society has constructed ultra-light, personal flying machines that draw their energy from a combination of kiting, solar collectors built into the wings, and a bicycle-like arrangement of pedals and gears (driving a prop?) that made flying into a good, aerobic workout. The next time you’re on the treadmill at that dank, crowded, smelly gym, just suspend your disbelief for a minute and imagine how much fun Spinrad’s contraption would be.

The book came back to my mind when I read the two stories below about human-powered computing using bicycle gears and pedals. I don’t think we are going to save the ozone layer with this, but I really see a market for home systems that require children who want to watch TV or play on the computer for more than an hour or so a day to start pedaling to provide the power.

PC World: MIT Students Power Supercomputer With Bicycle

Pedal Power

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