IBM revives jaded journos with Thin Client magic

What do you get when you cross a clown with a fine upstanding member of the business community? 'Why, John Wayne Gacey, serial murderer, of course.'

What do you get when you cross a clown with a fine upstanding member of the business community? "Why, John Wayne Gacey, serial murderer, of course."

Yes, I have to award the point on a technicality, but this clown is still alive--not having gone to the electric chair nor even having murdered any young men, for that matter. In fact, he was in New Zealand this week giving magic shows and presenting information about IBM's AS/400 Thin Client. His name: Randall Munson, IBM's AS/400 lab programme manager.

IBM's AS/400 Thin Client, a PowerPC-based device, will access any Java-enabled IBM system, including AS/400, RS/6000, S/390, and PC servers, as well as non-IBM host systems.

The AS/400 Thin Client will run an IBM-developed sub-operating system that links the client to the server. Users will be greeted with a Windows-like graphical interface that features an icon bar from which they can launch a Web browser or access other applications, such as Lotus Notes, that are running on the server. It will also provide for 5250 and 3270 terminal emulation.

Munson says the Thin Client is an advance in workstation technology in that it combines the best from non-programmable terminals and PCs. He says the Thin Client will be easy to maintain and a lot more secure than PCs because there is no way of loading data on to or taking data off the terminal and because there are virtually no moving parts.

"There is no disk and the on/off switch is about the only moveable part. It has just enough presence to identify itself to a network and host but it is dependent on the server for boot-strap programs."

Munson says the machine will have memory of between 8Mb and 40Mb and will have full multimedia capabilities such as sound and video, although no CD-ROM.

It will also be very small and "very, very fast".

It is in full development in the US right now and while the price has yet to be finalised, it is expected to cost $US700-$US800, including keyboard and mouse, but without a monitor.

IBM believes the AS/400 Thin Client will provide an alternative for companies fed up with the high costs of client-server computing.

Munson was also in New Zealand to promote the new PowerPC AS/400 with 64-bit processor. He caused the chip to levitate, in fact, and lowered it into a black box which moved about, seemingly through the power of the chip. It was Munson's magic, rather than the chip's, of course, but he refused to reveal his secrets.

"Absolutely not. I am not allowed to reveal any IBM confidential secrets and neither can I reveal my tricks."

Munson has also raised people into the air and sawed them in half during his IBM presentations, in an effort to get jaded product managers and journalists to go along.

And he has levitated in front of some important people--including "George and Barbara Bush and Millie the dog and all the puppies too", and the most gullible of them all, former US vice-president Dan Quayle.

Asked if Quayle had anything memorably stupid to say to him at the time, Munson laughed, saying: "He's a very bright man."

Among his magical talents Munson happens to be a ventriloquist--which maybe helps explain the Quayle comment.

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