Servers - A Brief Overview and History Lesson

History Of Servers

Servers have been around a long time, starting out as room-sized super computers, becoming much more compact for the equivalent level of ability. To start off our discussion of servers, we're going to discuss server history, specifically what a server is and two influential servers from the past.

What is a Server?

Servers have been an important part of technological advancement, without them, company's or government's would not be able to work or hold data as effectively as they do now. For those of you who don't know what a server is, it is just a computer that holds large amounts of data, as well as allowing the ability to share data and other information very quickly around a corporation. This can enable better teamwork due to everybody having access to the same data and access it in a very quick timeframe. Servers also allow employees to work far from their desk by use of a VPN. Simply put, a server makes everything much easier and connects much of a company's infrastructure together, it's just a MUCH larger, more advanced and capable home PC.

Famous Servers Throughout History

SAGE (AN/FSQ-7 Intercept)

Primary usage: Enemy Bomber Detection

One of the first large scale computers was known as the AN/FSQ-7 Intercept (also known as SAGE), created by IBM in 1956. It was designed to help the US Air Force detect enemy bombers. To this day it is the largest (officially known) computer ever created.

The computer unfortunately did not work so well for the Air Force, it was plagued daily with vacuum tubes breaking, forcing IBM to have engineers work around the clock repeatedly replacing computer components. Other than the daily vacuum tube breaking though, it had around a 99% uptime, because of the fact there were two units at each area there was a computer. One computer was running, the other on standby in case some vacuum tubes broke on the running computer, when that happened they switched on the standby. Unfortunately, ICBM's started coming around, and it couldn't detect them, effectively making it obsolete before it was really used.

Despite the fact the SAGE system didn't work as intended, it served as a great test bed for one of the first modern air-traffic control systems, based on the way it was designed to detect and track incoming threats. The server ran with 55,000 vacuum tubes, took up around half an acre of space and cost 238 million dollars.

Sun Ultra 2

Primary usage: First Google Server

Fast forward to 1998, the age of the corporate usage of computer servers is well under way. Larry Page and Sergey Brin ran their Backrub's search engine (which is later known as the Google search engine of course) on a Sun Ultra 2. The Sun Ultra 2 was created in the early to mid 90's by Sun Microsystems. This server was built as a workstation, helping corporations with providing either low cost servers for small business or startups, or extremely powerful servers for use in major corporations. It was built to be extremely versatile in its use to suit all possible customers. It was known as a cheap, reliable and functional server for ANYBODY to use.

Technical Specifications

This server contained many different configurations, to suit many different customer's needs. It contained up to 400 Mhz with a minimum of 167 Mhz UltraSPARC processor. With the minimum processor, you could have 512 KB of external cache while with the top of the line version you could have 2 MB of external cache. It can support up to 2 GB of Main memory. The maximum hard drive space was 18.2 GB, there was also a floppy and CD drive installed as well.

Servers have been working behind the scenes, helping many of today's greatest technological advances along, and of course its bound to continue in the future. In the next post we are going to discuss present day and maybe some future concept servers as well. If you have anything to say, or maybe suggest another historic server, please leave a comment below. Until then, good day.

Cover Photo - SAGE Console

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