David Schwartz, Ripple’s chief technology officer, had conjured a similar concept to Nakamoto’s Bitcoin blockchain 30 years ago, known as a “multilevel distributed computer system,” reported The Next Web on August 17, 2018.
On August 25, 1998, Schwartz filed a patent for the distributed computer system which was designed to use the combined processing power from several personal computers to accomplish specific tasks.
Schwartz’s Distributed Computer System before Nakamoto’s Bitcoin Blockchain
The goal of the patent was to solve computing intensive tasks by distributing the responsibility to a network of devices.
“A distributed computer system is a network of computers each of which function independently of but in a cooperative manner with each other,” said Schwartz in the patent’s documentation.
“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 idea was to decrease the load on one central computer to reduce the overall volume and cost of transmitting data.
Schwartz mentioned to Hard Fork that he initially came up with the idea when he was working on a graphics rendering issue that required a large amount of CPU power. Ironically, he noted that while he thought of distributing computer tasks, CPUs improved in performance very quickly and so, there wasn’t a requirement to distribute these tasks anymore.
Schwartz was granted the patent three years later, however, decided to shelve the patent and experiment. The Ripple CTO, however, did run some experiments on the distributed computer system. He noted that they had a working implementation and when more CPUs were added to the system, the workload would be dynamically distributed amongst the computers.
Schwart’s System Was Far From Perfect
While Schwartz’s system had a lot of merits, there were many problems. One of the first problems was the difficulty of creating a connection between different computers. While it’s easy to connect computers today, it was much more difficult to do so in the 80s.
Furthermore, breaking tasks down into smaller pieces that can be processed from many different computers was also an arduous task. Although the internet has solved a lot of the interconnection problems, many of Schwartz’s issues are apparent today.
Schwartz also noted that a lot of the experiments he conducted in the past impacts his work today. “It does seem that the things I worked on in the past keep coming up in the things I’m working on now,” said Schwartz. “I think that’s more just due to most of my work being in the same general area of distributed computing and cryptography.”