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Tiny computers: on a stick or implantable

Mr. Andes, my high school math teacher, drove a Camino and introduced me to computers.  Ages ago, he chaperoned a field trip to an Alcoa plant where a giant room housed a giant, room-sized computer.  Since then, computers have progressively become both more powerful and smaller.

In that vein, I’d like to introduce two cutting edge devices.  One’s just about to hit the consumer market (computer on a stick) and the other one is in various phases of R&D (including implantable computers).

At least two ‘computer on a stick’ products will be released this year: the Intel Compute Stick and the Asus Chrome Bit.  Each of these wireless devices is about this size of a ‘good-sized’ thumb drive and plugs into an HDMI port on a monitor. Peripherals connect via a USB port.


If ‘computer on a stick’ is too big for you, the world’s smallest computer is now about one millimeter cubed.  Built by engineers at the University of Michigan, the Michigan Micro Mote (aka M3) has input, output and processing capabilities.  It can be powered by ambient light, body heat and other options are in the works.

“Michigan has been inundated with requests to use these devices in applications from monitoring concrete and oil wells to researching the behavior of snails.”  Other projected uses include the Internet of Things (IoT) and pressure tracking for brain trauma and glaucoma.


The potential uses for the M3 computer are just as exciting and unimaginable now as the giant computer that Mr. Andes introduced.


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