Today's Word of the Day means...
The fourth planet from the Sun and the third smallest in the solar system, with a diameter about half that of Earth. Mars is the last of the terrestrial or inner planets and has notable similarities to Earth, including polar ice caps and a tilted axis that gives it seasons. However, it is significantly less dense than Earth and has no magnetic field, suggesting that it lacks a metallic core, and its atmosphere, made up mostly of carbon dioxide, is much thinner than Earth's. Mars has no surface water apart from a layer of permanent ice that underlies the seasonally changing caps of frozen carbon dioxide at its poles; there is, however, clear evidence of earlier water flows in the form of channels, outwashes, and canyons. Other surface features include numerous craters, especially in the southern hemisphere, along with very large volcanoes and extensive windblown dunes. Mar's reddish color is due to the abundance of hematite in its surface rocks. Its two small, irregular moons, Phobos and Deimos, may be asteroids captured earlier by gravitational attraction. See Table at solar system.
The Roman name of Ares, the Greek and Roman god of war.
Note: The fourth planet from the sun (the Earth is third) is named Mars, possibly because its red color is reminiscent of blood.
Note: The month of March is named after Mars.
Note: Smaller than the Earth, Mars has polar ice caps and a surface that includes red sands.
Note: The Viking space mission, which placed landers on the surface of Mars, did not discover any signs of life.
Note: Mars has been, and remains, the focus of space research by NASA. Voyages to Mars, including multiple landings, are scheduled through the first decade of the twenty-first century.
A legendary tragic failure, the archetypal Hacker Dream Gone Wrong. Mars was the code name for a family of PDP-10 compatible computers built by Systems Concepts (now, The SC Group): the multi-processor SC-30M, the small uniprocessor SC-25M, and the never-built superprocessor SC-40M. These machines were marvels of engineering design; although not much slower than the unique Foonly F-1, they were physically smaller and consumed less power than the much slower DEC KS10 or Foonly F-2, F-3, or F-4 machines. They were also completely compatible with the DEC KL10, and ran all KL10 binaries (including the operating system) with no modifications at about 2--3 times faster than a KL10.
When DEC cancelled the Jupiter project in 1983, Systems Concepts should have made a bundle selling their machine into shops with a lot of software investment in PDP-10s, and in fact their spring 1984 announcement generated a great deal of excitement in the PDP-10 world. TOPS-10 was running on the Mars by the summer of 1984, and TOPS-20 by early fall.
Unfortunately, the hackers running Systems Concepts were much better at designing machines than at mass producing or selling them; the company allowed itself to be sidetracked by a bout of perfectionism into continually improving the design, and lost credibility as delivery dates continued to slip. They also overpriced the product ridiculously; they believed they were competing with the KL10 and VAX 8600 and failed to reckon with the likes of Sun Microsystems and other hungry startups building workstations with power comparable to the KL10 at a fraction of the price.
By the time SC shipped the first SC-30M to Stanford in late 1985, most customers had already made the traumatic decision to abandon the PDP-10, usually for VMS or Unix boxes. Most of the Mars computers built ended up being purchased by CompuServe.
This tale and the related saga of Foonly hold a lesson for hackers: if you want to play in the Real World, you need to learn Real World moves.