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TECH TALK: Reinventing Computing: Kumbh Mela Cycle

August 16th, 2004 · No Comments

Indias Kumbh Mela takes place once every twelve years. There is a fascinating legend about its origins, according to Malini Bhisen:

It is said about this mela that the earth was made sacred at four places by contact with the Kumbh- jar-filled with “amrit” nectar, the Elixir of Immortality.

It is believed that the gods became emaciated as a result of the curse by a saint and wanted to regain their old strength and vigour by drinking the nectar. But they knew that they would not be able to churn the ocean by themselves and bring up the Kumbh, filled with the nectar that was lying on the bed of the ocean. So they approached the Asuras – the demons who were their inveterate enemies, to join hands with them in churning the ocean. For that help, the gods promised the Asuras that they would be given a portion of the nectar when the pot of nectar is brought up from the depths of the ocean. The Asuras readily agreed.

Then the gods and the demons started churning the ocean with Mandar mountain as the rod for churning and Vasuki, the great Cobra serpent for the thick string. As the vigorous churning progressed the ocean began to yield its treasures one by one. In all thirteen precious things came out from the sea. Lastly the Sage Dhanwantri appeared with the coveted jar of nectar in his hands. The Asuras who were physically stronger than the gods seized the kumbh. At that moment Lord Indra’s son Jayant, assumed the form of a gregarious rook- a ferocious bird – whisked away the jar from the hands of the demons and flew high up in the sky. The bird on its way to heaven rested at Nasik, Ujjain, Prayag and Haradwar. He took twelve days to reach paradise from the ocean. As each divine day is reckoned to be equivalent to an earth year, the Kumbh Mela is celebrated once in twelve years at each of these four places.

Religion Samachar adds: The four locations are Prayag (near Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh) at the confluence of three rivers Ganga (Ganges), Yamuna and Saraswati Haridwar (in Uttar Pradesh) where the river Ganga enters the plains from Himalayas Ujjain (in Madhya Pradesh), on the banks of Ksipra river, and Nasik (in Maharashtra) on the banks of Godavari river. The pilgrimage occurs four times every 12 years, once at each of the four locations. Each 12-year cycle includes the Maha (great) Kumbha Mela at Prayag, attended by millions of people, making it the largest pilgrimage gathering around the world.

Twelve years or so is also the cycle for computing breakthroughs. 1945 saw the invention of the worlds first computer, the ENIAC. In the late 1950s, IBM switched from using vacuum tubes to using transistors, and also launched Fortran. In the early 1970s, we had the invention of the microprocessor, along with Unix and the relational database. In 1982-83, the personal computer was launched by IBM. In 1992-94, we had the Wintel come into being, with the launch of Microsoft Windows 3.1 and the Intel Pentium. It also saw the creation of Mosaic, the graphical web browser, and the start of the proliferation of the Internet.

So, the next big leap in computing should be just around the corner. What will it be? Google as the supercomputer? Longhorn? Cellphones as always-on, always-connected computers? Utility computing? Wearable computers? Something unseen as of today…?

This series is about my vision of the future of computing. I will argue that the success of computing has limited its prospects for targeting the mass-market users, and what is needed is nothing short of a reinvention of every aspect of the computing ecosystem. The next computing Kumbh Mela is just around the corner.

Tomorrow: Looking Ahead

Tags: Tech Talk

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