A Stanford computer scientist has broken the record for the world's smallest Web server. Go to wearables.stanford.edu, and a computer the size of a matchbox will display a Web page describing the device and count your hits.
The mite-sized server is also the tiniest PC so far. “It has all the functionality of your desktop computer,” other than power supply, monitor, and keyboard, says Stanford's Vaughan Pratt, who created it last month. That means that unlike other tiny electronic devices—such as a Palm Pilot electronic organizer—it has a grown-up operating system (Linux) and runs the same software as PCs. Built with newly available, very compact off-the-shelf components, the minicomputer has 16 megabytes of file storage, enough to hold a couple hundred text Web pages with some graphics. The previous record holder for smallest Web server was a device made in 1996 by Phar Lap Software that's about 230 cubic centimeters in volume—more than 10 times bigger.
Such tiny computers could lighten the load of people who now schlepp laptops, Pratt says. And, equipped with a wireless modem, it could function as a wearable Web server that scientists might use to relay data to the Internet from the field, or for high-tech mountain climbers to post logs of their adventures.