Before Blockchain Was a Thing, Ripple’s CTO Made a Distributed Computer System

The chief technology officer at Ripple, David Schwartz, came up with a concept that is eerily similar to the blockchain. While Satoshi Nakamoto is often considered the mind behind blockchain, Schwartz came up with the concept way before blockchain even came into being.

A patent was filed on August 25, 1988, by Schwartz that included a “multilevel distributed computer system” that would, at least in theory at that time, run on “personal computers”. The main goal was to amass individual computing power of multiple devices in order to achieve demanding targeted tasks. Schwartz was granted the patent three years later, however, it never panned out to its full potential.

A Little Bit of History

David Schwartz was trying to figure out how a processing-intensive task can be subdivided and distributed among multiple devices connected by a network. That was a great concept to solve problems that were, at that time, impossible to do on a singular machine. “A distributed computer system is a network of computers each of which function independently of but in a cooperative manner with each other.”, the patent said.

“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,” the patent explained further. The patent also goes in depth about reducing processing demands, “Such an arrangement lessens the load on the control computer and reduces both the volume and cost of data transmission.”

David Schwartz was working on graphics rendering problems that required “significant amounts of CPU power”. He further explained to Hard Fork about his invention, “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,”.

Schwartz and his team were able to do some experiments on it before it was eventually put on ice.

“You could add more CPUs to the cluster and workloads would dynamically distribute to them.” He talked to Hard Fork about it. “We had a working implementation that generated images of fractals,” he stated.

Blockchain and Distributed Computing

One of the biggest hurdles was establishing the connection between multiple computers. There was no high-speed internet to facilitate that back then. Another problem was the actual breakdown of tasks in small parts and their distribution among connected computers.

Breaking down huge network components in small-sized parts is a challenge that is still being faced. The Internet has thankfully solved almost all of the connectivity issues that were prevalent 30 years ago though.

“I think that’s more just due to most of my work being in the same general area of distributed computing and cryptography.” Schwartz said. “It does seem that the things I worked on in the past keep coming up in the things I’m working on now,” he further added while explaining how his old work is helping him even today.

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