Strange but true: computer systems

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The Independent Tech

Not all internet servers are encased in bombproof granite; some run on unusual machines in unusual locations, and perform distinctly unusual functions. Sony's online multi-player game, Warhawk, runs from an enormous cluster of Playstation 3 consoles – but what are the oddest web servers ever built?

The Potato-Powered Server

Back in 2000, Fredric White created a web server powered by five potatoes. It managed to cope with 0.2 hits per second, taking roughly five seconds to process a single server request. White eventually abandoned the project, citing "being sick of rotten potatoes" as the main reason.

The Tiniest Server

This minuscule device laid claim to being the smallest ever web server in 1999, and briefly served two tiny web pages. It was made from a Fairchild ACE1101MT8 microcontroller and was smaller than the head of a matchstick.

The Xbox

A university in the US, keen to keep costs down, used an Xbox games console as a server for philosophy students to work on their own websites. Five weeks into one semester, the students suddenly found that their projects had disappeared; the problem was tracked down to a sheepish manager who, not realising what the Xbox was for, had taken it home to keep his son amused.

The Pocket PC

The website ran a story in 2002 about a chap who had managed to get a web server running on his personal organiser. The "Slashdot effect" ensured that his organiser was quickly overwhelmed, and didn't stay a server for very long.