While he is currently the CTO of Ripple, David Schwartz had, back in 1988, been working on a software technology that looked eerily similar to what is being used today as the fuel for cryptocurrency transactions, i.e blockchain. Per a report on August 16 on Thenextweb, David Schwartz was quite close to establishing a distributed network system as early as 1988.
Long before Schwartz began working with Ripple, he was a cryptographer and was working on a way to more efficiently handle computing tasks. These tasks were far too complex for a single computer at the time to handle and thus, needed a network of multiple computers to complete.
To combat this problem, Schwartz designed a computer system that was designed to run on personal computers. This system would essentially split various tasks among various computers to carry them out faster and more efficiently, not unlike blockchain technology today.
David Schwartz successfully applied for a patent for this technology. According to the patent documents, the program is described as “A distributed computer system is a network of computers each of which functions independently of but in a cooperative manner with each other. The versatility of a computer system can be increased by using a plurality of small computers, such as personal computers, to perform simple tasks and a central computer for longer more complex tasks”
However, the project was eventually shelved.
What went wrong?
While Schwartz’ idea certainly had its merits, it didn’t work out for a simple reason: the advancement of CPUs. The entire basis for the program was that CPUs at the time were not capable of handling certain tasks and the programme was meant to solve that problem.
With time, however, the problem solved itself. Schwartz said,
“CPUs improved in performance much more quickly than expected and there didn’t seem to be much need for distributing tasks dynamically to CPUs with available processing power.”
Besides the impending improvements that would be made to CPUs, there were a number of problems that hindered the design.
For starters, connecting the computers in question proved to be difficult. Fortunately, the emergence of the internet soon solved this. Beyond connectivity issues, there was the issue of dividing the tasks into smaller bits and then distributing among the various computer systems.
An Ongoing Legacy
Despite its many problems and its ultimately getting shelved, Schwartz’ programme and the challenges surrounding it have come up again in recent times.
As Schwartz himself said “It does seem that the things I worked on in the past keep coming up in the things I’m “working on now.”