What-If 0063: "Google's Datacenters on Punch Cards"

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What-If 0063: "Google's Datacenters on Punch Cards"

Postby Quicksilver » Tue Sep 17, 2013 8:25 am UTC

"If all digital data were stored on punch cards, how big would Google's data warehouse be?"
James Zetlen


This is quite a speculative article. There's some interesting ideas thrown about, but countless outliers and other factors to consider too.

Who watches the watchers?

Apparently, Domino's.
hahahahaha, as someone who worked as a delivery driver for 5 years, I can confirm that we gain an extraordinary amount of information about people. In the early days, we used to keep receipts too.

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Re: What-If 0063: "Google's Datacenters on Punch Cards"

Postby rhomboidal » Tue Sep 17, 2013 8:34 am UTC

I wonder if the NSA protects the security secrets of the country better than their toppings choices.

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Re: What-If 0063: "Google's Datacenters on Punch Cards"

Postby Vroomfundel » Tue Sep 17, 2013 8:39 am UTC

Ah, ninja'd by one minute... nothing to nitpick about in the other thread - no choice left for me but to commit thread harakiri
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Re: What-If 0063: "Google's Datacenters on Punch Cards"

Postby tasadar24 » Tue Sep 17, 2013 9:28 am UTC

I was wondering why Schlumberger or Chevron was on the short list for possibly larger server/data farms compared to Google, anyone have any insight? I'd think that Microsoft should've been at least above those guys.

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Re: What-If 0063: "Google's Datacenters on Punch Cards"

Postby rjsteg » Tue Sep 17, 2013 9:34 am UTC

But the alt text on the image BLEW MY MIND (for some reason): "Who milks the milkman?" What?!?!

It seems to me Google and the NSA have two options:

1) build their own pizza parlors *inside* the datacenters, or
2) make the pizza delivery people sign non-disclosures.

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Re: What-If 0063: "Google's Datacenters on Punch Cards"

Postby azule » Tue Sep 17, 2013 9:50 am UTC

The images weren't loading. This one still hasn't.
Image

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Re: What-If 0063: "Google's Datacenters on Punch Cards"

Postby Ekaros » Tue Sep 17, 2013 10:19 am UTC

I just wish there would be some more graphical presentation of areas. My knowledge of third world geography is rather bad so I didn't have any idea how big this New England is...

Just proves how efficient we are at storing data. Though the real amount is hard to say as systems uses in this kind of servers are different from normal hardware. I think most servers don't even have a mass storage attached...

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Re: What-If 0063: "Google's Datacenters on Punch Cards"

Postby LtNOWIS » Tue Sep 17, 2013 10:23 am UTC

As someone who works as a data center security guard, I can confirm that we let lots of delivery drivers through the outer gates, especially on weekends. But it's not just pizza, I've also signed in Chinese food, Italian, and Panera Bread.

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Re: What-If 0063: "Google's Datacenters on Punch Cards"

Postby HFXRCUR » Tue Sep 17, 2013 10:40 am UTC

The Latin is a bit weird - it says "who to milk the men milk themselves?"

It should be something like "quis mulgebit ipsos mulgentes?" - Who will milk the milkers?
(Can't find a Latin word for milkman, strangely enough :P)
Last edited by HFXRCUR on Tue Sep 17, 2013 12:10 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: What-If 0063: "Google's Datacenters on Punch Cards"

Postby Klear » Tue Sep 17, 2013 10:54 am UTC

Best part of the article is the mouseover text of the glacier image:

"Illustration courtesy xkcd.com, used with permission."

(btw, is that sentence missing "of", or is this acceptable?)

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Re: What-If 0063: "Google's Datacenters on Punch Cards"

Postby feldgendler » Tue Sep 17, 2013 11:23 am UTC

On the other hand, it's only 23.5 cubic meters of MicroSD cards, or about one truckload.

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Re: What-If 0063: "Google's Datacenters on Punch Cards"

Postby LukeRW » Tue Sep 17, 2013 12:12 pm UTC

Covering New England to 4.5km depth...well, New England is 186,458.8 sq km according to Wikipedia, so that gives a volume of ~839,000 cubic km of punch cards.

Which is enough to cover all the freaking land on Earth (no point letting those punch cards get soggy) to 5.6 metres. Or 18.3 feet.

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Re: What-If 0063: "Google's Datacenters on Punch Cards"

Postby cellocgw » Tue Sep 17, 2013 12:38 pm UTC

Rule 34: "Hi, I'm the pizza delivery boy..."
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Re: What-If 0063: "Google's Datacenters on Punch Cards"

Postby hermitian » Tue Sep 17, 2013 12:43 pm UTC

tasadar24 wrote:I was wondering why Schlumberger or Chevron was on the short list for possibly larger server/data farms compared to Google, anyone have any insight? I'd think that Microsoft should've been at least above those guys.


I can imagine those guys having a lot of data for sure, but I wouldn't have imagined they would be on the same list as the NSA or NGA. Maybe underground surveys for oil are very data intensive? That would be the only way I could imagine exabytes of data being produced.

I also don't imagine that the CIA has that much either. To get into the really big data, you need lots of "worthless data." Like recording international communications (NSA), hundreds of pictures of nearly every square kilometer on earth (NGA), much of the WWW (Google). The CIA doesn't strike me as dealing with that kind of indiscriminate "hoovering" of data. Human-gathered and created intelligence is small.

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Re: What-If 0063: "Google's Datacenters on Punch Cards"

Postby Flumble » Tue Sep 17, 2013 1:07 pm UTC

hermitian wrote:I also don't imagine that the CIA has that much either. To get into the really big data, you need lots of "worthless data." Like recording international communications (NSA), hundreds of pictures of nearly every square kilometer on earth (NGA), much of the WWW (Google). The CIA doesn't strike me as dealing with that kind of indiscriminate "hoovering" of data. Human-gathered and created intelligence is small.

I don't know what an organisation like the CIA would do all day but data aggregation and profile building could be one activity. And what's easier than letting some computer clusters run profiling software on (tons of more or less useless) gathered information?

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Re: What-If 0063: "Google's Datacenters on Punch Cards"

Postby Ekaros » Tue Sep 17, 2013 1:18 pm UTC

CERN seems to be around 100 PB themselves... So smashing stuff around does also produce lot of data ;D

http://home.web.cern.ch/about/updates/2 ... -petabytes

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Re: What-If 0063: "Google's Datacenters on Punch Cards"

Postby waveney » Tue Sep 17, 2013 1:27 pm UTC

hermitian wrote:
tasadar24 wrote:I was wondering why Schlumberger or Chevron was on the short list for possibly larger server/data farms compared to Google, anyone have any insight? I'd think that Microsoft should've been at least above those guys.


I can imagine those guys having a lot of data for sure, but I wouldn't have imagined they would be on the same list as the NSA or NGA. Maybe underground surveys for oil are very data intensive? That would be the only way I could imagine exabytes of data being produced.


I once met an oil analyst (late 90's) on most nights, they flew crates of data (not sure what form) from the middle east to Texas for over night analysis to direct the survey/drilling teams the next day. This was a serious data rate.

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Re: What-If 0063: "Google's Datacenters on Punch Cards"

Postby Wnderer » Tue Sep 17, 2013 1:30 pm UTC

The NSA has been informed of this 'What If' and are now planning their take over of Dominos.

Spoiler:
Though it's weird that I had my credit card number stolen and it had purchases from Dominos in 6 different states.

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Re: What-If 0063: "Google's Datacenters on Punch Cards"

Postby Andy84 » Tue Sep 17, 2013 1:43 pm UTC

Did anyone else catch the spelling error under the "10 Exabytes" section?
Spoiler:
necessarilly

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Re: What-If 0063: "Google's Datacenters on Punch Cards"

Postby LOLBeth » Tue Sep 17, 2013 1:46 pm UTC

Laughing my ass off over the pizza delivery!

You learn some fun historical facts things if you grow up in Los Alamos, and your father's a physicist. During WWII, one subgroup that knew more about the Manhattan Project than they were supposed to:

The publishers of the science fiction magazines (Analog, Astounding) in circulation at that time.

What they knew: in the middle of a war, when the entire population of the United States was on a war footing with all resources (including travel) under tight controls, a large number of their subscribers suddenly (within a very short span of time) moved to northern New Mexico! In fact, they all changed their mailing addresses to the same address: PO Box 1663 in Santa Fe.

Within the same period, a good many other subscribers also moved to Washington State, or to Kentucky, but most of them went to New Mexico.

The subscribers who had all decided to share the same PO Box just happened to include most of the country’s top nuclear scientists. There were other scientists as well: metallurgists, mathematicians, etc.

Other groups knew something was going on in that area, including the postal service in Santa Fe, which was receiving mail for several thousand people who all had the same PO Box; the staff at the railroad depot in Lamy, NM, who saw a long stream of professionally dressed men, many with their families, who got off the train in Lamy and “were never seen again”; and the entire population of Santa Fe, who could see the lights of a nonexistent town at night. They didn't know the missing men in the mystery town were mostly scientists, although the post office did see a strange concentration of "Ph.D." in the mail they were handling.

Fortunately, German intelligence never tried to chat up the editors of Analog. As far as we know, anyway.

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Re: What-If 0063: "Google's Datacenters on Punch Cards"

Postby Cal Engime » Tue Sep 17, 2013 1:52 pm UTC

HFXRCUR wrote:The Latin is a bit weird - it says "who to milk the men milk themselves?"

It should be something like "quis mulgebit ipsos mulgentes?" - Who will milk the milkers?
(Can't find a Latin word for milkman, strangely enough :P)
I would write, "Quis mulgebit ipsos gerulos lactis?"("Who will milk the bearers of milk themselves?") Unless of course the intended meaning is "supply the milkmen themselves with milk," in which case we could perhaps write "quis lactabit ipsos gerulos lactis?" ("Who will suckle the milkmen themselves?")

Edit: P.S. Obligatory

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Re: What-If 0063: "Google's Datacenters on Punch Cards"

Postby Nicias » Tue Sep 17, 2013 3:06 pm UTC

LOLBeth wrote:...Within the same period, a good many other subscribers also moved to Washington State, or to Kentucky, but most of them went to New Mexico....

I think you mean Tennessee

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Re: What-If 0063: "Google's Datacenters on Punch Cards"

Postby nerdsniped » Tue Sep 17, 2013 3:18 pm UTC

Is it just me, or is some of the math way off here?

First, volume of the punch cards. Wikipedia gives the dimensions of an 80-column IBM punch card as 187.325 x 82.55 x 0.18 millimeters. Multiply that by 15 x 10^18 bytes, divide by 80 bytes/card, and converting units, I get 521.9 cubic kilometers. The area of New England is 186,458.8 square kilometers (Wikipedia again), so it would be covered only to a height of 2.8 meters.

Second, the commercial hard disk industry must ship far more than "8 exabytes worth of drives annually". That would only be 8 million 1TB drives. The PC industry ships hundreds of millions of units annually, and 1TB is a smallish drive nowadays (for desktops at least).

...Ah, I think I see the confusion. The cited article reports that "total disk storage systems capacity shipped reached 8.2 exabytes". However, this appears to refer to a single quarter of 2013, not an entire year. More importantly, "disk storage systems" here probably refers to high-end managed storage servers, not raw hard disks. (A chart on that same page lists EMC as the largest vendor; EMC doesn't manufacture hard disks.)

Edit to add: according to a random research report by IDC, projected drive production for 2014 is 300 exabytes of capacity. Take this with a grain of salt, but it seems like a more plausible order of magnitude.

Edit to add^2: Wikipedia reports the land area of *Boston* as 125.4 km^2. Dividing 521.9 cubic kilometers of punch cards by this figure gives a depth of 4.16 kilometers, much closer to the 4.5km figure in the article. The remaining difference might come from the fact that I did my math directly on the size of an individual card, without allowing room for boxes.
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Re: What-If 0063: "Google's Datacenters on Punch Cards"

Postby Bounty » Tue Sep 17, 2013 4:08 pm UTC

“When it gets down to it — talking trade balances here — once we've brain-drained all our technology into other countries, once things have evened out, they're making cars in Bolivia and microwave ovens in Tadzhikistan and selling them here — once our edge in natural resources has been made irrelevant by giant Hong Kong ships and dirigibles that can ship North Dakota all the way to New Zealand for a nickel — once the Invisible Hand has taken away all those historical inequities and smeared them out into a broad global layer of what a Pakistani brickmaker would consider to be prosperity — y'know what? There's only four things we [the USA] do better than anyone else:
music
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high-speed pizza delivery”
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Re: What-If 0063: "Google's Datacenters on Punch Cards"

Postby cantab314 » Tue Sep 17, 2013 5:08 pm UTC

I was hoping the cards would be used to cover Rhode Island - then trampled under the feet of the world's seven billion people.

And yeah, I can see the oil companies having a lot of data. I've only ever looked at simple processed stuff myself, but the raw data from seismic surveys is basically audio. One ship might have a thousand microphones, so if I assume uncompressed cd-quality audio that's 7 terabytes in a day. It'd only take a dozen or so seismic ships to generate data faster than the LHC.

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Re: What-If 0063: "Google's Datacenters on Punch Cards"

Postby davidstarlingm » Tue Sep 17, 2013 5:38 pm UTC

There are many millions of miles of gas and oil pipelines in the United States alone, and most pipeline companies run data-collecting robots through the lines on a pretty regular basis. I'm guessing the companies that own the robots and analyze the data have to have pretty big servers.

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Re: What-If 0063: "Google's Datacenters on Punch Cards"

Postby gmalivuk » Tue Sep 17, 2013 7:35 pm UTC

Klear wrote:"Illustration courtesy xkcd.com, used with permission."

(btw, is that sentence missing "of", or is this acceptable?)
In my experience that is standard for image credits.
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Re: What-If 0063: "Google's Datacenters on Punch Cards"

Postby Earthling on Mars » Tue Sep 17, 2013 8:07 pm UTC

Citations 1 and 11 are painful reminders of http://xkcd.com/859/. :( Also 12 comes before 11.

Klear wrote:Best part of the article is the mouseover text of the glacier image:

"Illustration courtesy xkcd.com, used with permission."

Yeah, I cracked up at that. :P
(In case anyone doesn't know, it's referring to http://xkcd.com/1225/)

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Re: What-If 0063: "Google's Datacenters on Punch Cards"

Postby yellow103 » Tue Sep 17, 2013 9:27 pm UTC

You have forgotten something very important about cards. You don't just stack them, you need to GET TO them. How much data would be needed to index the cards for... card retrievers ( good luck)? how much to index that?

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Re: What-If 0063: "Google's Datacenters on Punch Cards"

Postby gmalivuk » Tue Sep 17, 2013 9:34 pm UTC

Well, do you need more data to index cards than to index modern files? Because if not, Google already has that data stored as well, and it's included in the existing total.
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Re: What-If 0063: "Google's Datacenters on Punch Cards"

Postby JimJ » Tue Sep 17, 2013 10:23 pm UTC

Some of the first commercial use of Genetic Algorithms was for oil pipelines. (I don't remember whether it was control/maintenance scheduling/etc.)

So even in the 1970s, some oil companies were already collecting so much data that human experts were getting lost in it, and missing some procedural improvements that a computer actually could recognize (if not explain).

That implies a pretty strong culture of "store all the measurements, even if you don't see how to use them yet" -- and any change I associate with the last 3rd of a century would only make that strategy cheaper and more effective.

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Re: What-If 0063: "Google's Datacenters on Punch Cards"

Postby rmsgrey » Tue Sep 17, 2013 10:43 pm UTC

LOLBeth wrote:Laughing my ass off over the pizza delivery!

You learn some fun historical facts things if you grow up in Los Alamos, and your father's a physicist. During WWII, one subgroup that knew more about the Manhattan Project than they were supposed to:

The publishers of the science fiction magazines (Analog, Astounding) in circulation at that time.

What they knew: in the middle of a war, when the entire population of the United States was on a war footing with all resources (including travel) under tight controls, a large number of their subscribers suddenly (within a very short span of time) moved to northern New Mexico! In fact, they all changed their mailing addresses to the same address: PO Box 1663 in Santa Fe.

Within the same period, a good many other subscribers also moved to Washington State, or to Kentucky, but most of them went to New Mexico.

The subscribers who had all decided to share the same PO Box just happened to include most of the country’s top nuclear scientists. There were other scientists as well: metallurgists, mathematicians, etc.

Other groups knew something was going on in that area, including the postal service in Santa Fe, which was receiving mail for several thousand people who all had the same PO Box; the staff at the railroad depot in Lamy, NM, who saw a long stream of professionally dressed men, many with their families, who got off the train in Lamy and “were never seen again”; and the entire population of Santa Fe, who could see the lights of a nonexistent town at night. They didn't know the missing men in the mystery town were mostly scientists, although the post office did see a strange concentration of "Ph.D." in the mail they were handling.

Fortunately, German intelligence never tried to chat up the editors of Analog. As far as we know, anyway.


There was also the blanket censorship of all publications relating to atomic fission, nuclear energy, and atomic bombs except for the stories in the magazines - apparently someone saw reason on the point that the sudden disappearance of nuclear power from the published stories would A) tip off the authors directly, and B) get some of the readers speculating...

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Re: What-If 0063: "Google's Datacenters on Punch Cards"

Postby Klear » Tue Sep 17, 2013 11:51 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
Klear wrote:"Illustration courtesy xkcd.com, used with permission."

(btw, is that sentence missing "of", or is this acceptable?)
In my experience that is standard for image credits.


Googling ["image courtesy of"] yeilds 118,000,000 results while ["image courtesy" -"image courtesy of"] only 3,240,000. That's why I asked - couldn't make up my mind if that means that both are acceptable, or if it is just a widespread typo.

So... it doesn't seem to be a standard, but it's probably OK. Thanks!

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Re: What-If 0063: "Google's Datacenters on Punch Cards"

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Sep 18, 2013 12:01 am UTC

Harder to search for, but the JPL image use guidelines suggest that I might have been thinking of examples where "image" is also not used (or maybe I just look at a lot of NASA pictures?). They say the credit line should be "Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech".
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Re: What-If 0063: "Google's Datacenters on Punch Cards"

Postby Jorpho » Wed Sep 18, 2013 5:59 am UTC

I like how my first attempt to look up "quis mulgere ipsos lac homines" somehow turned up the Malleus Maleficarum.

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Re: What-If 0063: "Google's Datacenters on Punch Cards"

Postby keithl » Wed Sep 18, 2013 6:03 am UTC

nerdsniped wrote:Is it just me, or is some of the math way off here?

First, volume of the punch cards. Wikipedia gives the dimensions of an 80-column IBM punch card as 187.325 x 82.55 x 0.18 millimeters. Multiply that by 15 x 10^18 bytes, divide by 80 bytes/card, and converting units, I get 521.9 cubic kilometers. The area of New England is 186,458.8 square kilometers (Wikipedia again), so it would be covered only to a height of 2.8 meters.
I concur.

There is another error in the calculation - 80 column punch cards only stored 1 of 64 symbols per column - the coding was sparse, 6 bits of information per column! The newer 96 column cards (which never really caught on) had denser coding. So, at 60 bytes per card (3 to 4 encoding, which we actually used to send ascii-encoded binary over UUCP) the volume is 895.9 km3, and the depth becomes 3.7 meters.

A character could be 0 (space), 1, 2, or 3 punches. The average for a random character is 2.06 punches per column, 2.75 punches per byte. The chads would be about 0.11 inch by 0.05 inch, 2.79 by 1.27 mm, so the average chad volume per byte (assuming random data) is 1.75 mm3. For 15 exabytes, that is 26 cubic kilometers of chad. Assuming (WAG) 1000kg of fiber per cubic meter, 50% carbon by weight, that is 13 billion tons of carbon. Burning all the chads would add about 9ppm CO2 to the Earth's atmosphere. Burning all the cards would almost double atmospheric CO2.

Imagine telling a 1960's atmospheric scientist that you were about to "burn" 15 exabytes of data. If they believed you, they would kill you to stop you.

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Re: What-If 0063: "Google's Datacenters on Punch Cards"

Postby keithl » Wed Sep 18, 2013 6:19 am UTC

There are denser ways than hard disks to store data, of course.

Last year, George Church of Harvard wrote a book on DNA, and wrote 70 billion copies of that book - on DNA itself. At 5.5 petabits per cubic millimeter, 15 exabytes fits in 22 cubic centimeters, about the volume of a 1.8 inch hard drive.

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Postby miket » Wed Sep 18, 2013 9:03 am UTC

Yes, I'm another one who loved the analysis but hated the Latin. I registered so that I could take the role of the centurion. "People called Romanes, they go, the house". You have to get the endings right.

You were thinking of being cute with the phrase "quis custodiet ipsos custodes". The verb is in the future tense, so as HFXRCUR has it, you'd need the future indicative singular of mulgere, which is mulgebit. Now, as he points out, the trouble is in the direct object. I also can't find a handy word for "milkman", "milkmaid", or even "milker", but the word "mulgus" suggests itself. Unfortunately, I don't find that word by itself; there is the mildly perjorative compound "caprimulgus", which I suppose would do if you had goat-cheese pizza.

So, as I often do, I look for cognates in modern Romance languages. Spanish has the word ordeñador, meaning "one who milks". Spanish has an official dictionary (the Diccionario de la lengua española from the Spanish Royal Academy). The entry it has for the verb ordeñar ("to milk", which is different than ordenar, "to put in order") shows it to be derived from the Latin ordiniare, which is from ordinare. And yes, if you noticed that the ordinare is the root of both ordeñar and ordenar, you've spotted what is a fairly common pattern in which a Latin word can be the root of multiple derived-language words with very divergent meanings.

So now I think it would be good to go with a "one who does" construct for ordiniare. This would mean words like ordiniator, ordiniatus, or ordiniatrix. Ah, but that seems to be much too orderly--I don't find any uses of those words at all. So now, let me think of someone who did milking. How about Sara Portlock and Sara Nelms, the milkmaids that Edward Jenner made famous? Dr. Jenner was kind enough to write in Latin (Disquisitio de caussis et effectibus variolarum vaccinarum), but even he did not have a single word for "milker". The best he could do was ancillae mulgentes, "milking maidservants". This is really a bit too servile.

Actually, I'm almost there. Let's go back to ordiniator. While I don't find that word, I'll take a cue from the Diccionario and try ordinator. That word is pretty common. Guess what? It means "producer."

So finally I come back to "who will milk the milk makers" (just to continue with the Life of Brian theme). So, no "milkers" but "milk producers". That means "milk" in the genitive singular rather than the gerund "milking". Put it together and you get "Quis mulgebit ipsos ordinatores lactis?" I'm afraid by now it's lost some of its punch. After all, it could mean "who will milk the cows?"

Funny, by the way, is that the word ordinator is the root of what in many Romance languages is their brave attempt to avoid making their word for "computer" be cognate with the word for the thing in English. Cognate with English--horrors!

Now I think Cal Engime's suggestion about leading on the milkmen is just a bit too weird. This takes it around to a beneficent, more innocent view: "Quis nutriet ipsas ancillas mulgentes". "Who will nourish the milkmaids?"

But Caligula might ask, "Quis nutrietur ipsis ancillis mulgentibus?"

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LOLBeth
Posts: 8
Joined: Mon Apr 02, 2012 10:59 pm UTC

Re: What-If 0063: "Google's Datacenters on Punch Cards"

Postby LOLBeth » Wed Sep 18, 2013 12:52 pm UTC

Nicias wrote:
LOLBeth wrote:...Within the same period, a good many other subscribers also moved to Washington State, or to Kentucky, but most of them went to New Mexico....

I think you mean Tennessee


*facepalm* I sure did. You can tell which one of the three I've never lived in.

trayracing
Posts: 1
Joined: Wed Sep 18, 2013 1:08 pm UTC

Re: What-If 0063: "Google's Datacenters on Punch Cards"

Postby trayracing » Wed Sep 18, 2013 1:19 pm UTC

15,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes? That's approaching the limit of the 64 bit address space!


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