Digital computing performance has improved 10,000-fold in the past two decades: what took a year of number crunching in 1983 takes less than an hour nowadays, and a desktop computer from that era can't match the processing power of one of today's handheld organizers.
We pay a price for these enhancements, though. As digital systems have grown in complexity, their operation has become brittle and unreliable. Computer-related failures have become all too common. Personal computers crash or freeze up regularly; Internet sites go offline often. New software upgrades, designed to augment performance, may leave things worse than they were before. Inconvenience aside, the situation is also an expensive one: annual outlays for maintenance, repairs and operations far exceed total hardware and software costs, for both individuals and corporations.
This article was originally published with the title Self-Repairing Computers.