TRON Project Leader's Opinion

Ken Sakamura

The University Museum, The University of Tokyo

Soon, we will really be greeting in the 21st century. As of now, TRON was able to achieve almost all its original goals in the 20th century. We can now ride in a car in which the engine is controlled by TRON OS (operating system) while looking at a car navigation system that TRON OS is running, place a call on a TRON OS equipped cell-phone, and leave for home. These types of things are now possible--and doesn't that feel good. If you think about it, the TRON Project, which set about designing a real-time operating system kernel for embedded use, started at beginning of the 1980s.

At that time, the real-time OS itself already was not particularly novel, and academically it wasn't thought of as an interesting subject for research. However, everyone was developing their own real-time OS with original specifications that were slightly different, and then there were few well designed, i.e., cleanly designed, OSs, and there were also many problems in putting them into widespread use. After ITRON was announced, we obtained support little by little in many embedded OS fields, and at present, it has become the most used OS in the world.

In the 1980s, the Internet was still an academic network. Because participation by enterprises was at most research centers, distribution of TRON specifications was done entirely with printed materials. Now, downloading from Web sites has naturally become the leading method for distributing specifications. Even among various computer projects, the TRON Project has become a fairly old project. However, both the Internet and UNIX have a history of more than 30 years. I hope that the TRON Project can become one of these vintage class computer projects in Japan, where there are few of them.

At present, it is becoming difficult to create something new that no one has ever thought of. Take, for example, architecture. Even though new buildings continue to be built, unique styles have become exhausted and many of them are combinations of existing ones. As for computers, semiconductor technology advances are expected, but although there is room for hardware to become faster and for the scale to become larger, overcoming everything through the power of hardware alone still has limitations. This division into hardware and software itself is something that is becoming old. The border is becoming vague, and controlling hardware to the maximum extent via software has become the trend.

The design of computer systems is approaching the design of houses. Rather than experimenting with something new, what's becoming important is providing a well designed system based on an optimal tradeoff between hardware and software in response to a purpose. Among the things that TRON has been aiming at, there were not a few concepts and research themes that led the times, such as the HFDS and ubiquitous computing, but what is for sure is that in the 21st century computers as social infrastructure will become more important. Precisely an OS that forms a base that can be used for 10 years, 100 years, not one that is in vogue for a time, is what is in demand. How to offer a well designed OS that is one of these base parts is also important, and I believe that precisely that will form the foundation for promoting new experiments.

The above opinion piece by TRON Project Leader Ken Sakamura appeared on page 1 of Vol. 66 of TRONWARE. It was translated and loaded onto this page with the permission of Personal Media Corporation.

Copyright © 2000 Personal Media Corporation

Copyright © 2000 Sakamura Laboratory, University Museum, University of Tokyo