Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Super-Space Cube "to Link All Known Technologies"

Darpasats_2 A super-sophisticated space cube of technology - and this one isn't bent on our assimilation. That's probably because it's only five centimeters to a side, and Borg that you can hold in your hand aren't intimidating no matter how much they insist that "size is irrelevant".

The cute little computer is some literally space-age technology, built by the Shimafuji corporation for operation off the planet. Rather ominously like it's Borg brethren, the cube is designed to link up to all known space technologies - those of NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Japan Aerospace exploration Agency (JAXA, and it's always nice to see an organization prepared to mangle capitalisation for a good acronym).

While armed with the usual USB and Firewire ports, the SpaceCube acts as an international systems ambassador using SpaceWire connections. It turns out that astronauts don't want to see messages like "Error: The driver for the Oxygen Processor could not be found 00xxxxxeeff333", so while Earth businesses fill up your hard drive with multiple generations of drivers (and Sony act the arsehole with proprietary formats), the space agencies built their own standard.

It's not just the connections that are built for extraterrestrial operation: the unit is highly impact resistant, of course compact, and draws aminuscule five watts to operate. We're not sure how it can produce big showers of sparks when the station is hit, but forty years of Star Trek assure us it will. The trade off for these tiny requirements is less than impressive specs: a 300 MHz processor and only 16 MB of RAM.

Then again, we sent men to the moon with less processing power than your phone has now - and it's not as if people who get to go into space need to fill up their lives with Warcraft.

Posted by Luke McKinney

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