computer support are not given explicitly in this chapter because the costs occur in various programs that are discussed in Chapter 1, Chapter 3, and Chapter 4. For example, workstations are included in the grants program, supercomputing support is provided directly to the supercomputing centers, and computers to perform the first stage of data reduction are included in the costs of individual instrumental initiatives.
A hierarchical network of ever more powerful machines will provide great computing power to the individual researcher in the next decade. Beginning in the 1980s, personal computers and workstations gave many scientists control over their own computing and observing environments; supercomputers became generally available through the creation of the NSF national supercomputer centers; and international research networks allowed researchers to communicate electronically with their colleagues or with supercomputer centers, national laboratories, observatories, and data archives. These trends will accelerate and become more tightly integrated in the next decade.
The 1990s will bring major advances at all levels in this evolving hierarchy. New processor technologies will put affordable, powerful computing in every observatory and on every astronomer's desk. These machines, which are nearly as powerful as today's supercomputers for many tasks, will make possible the acquisition and processing of large datasets, as well as the forging of synergistic links between data analysis, theoretical computations, and visualization tools. On a slightly larger scale, departmental mini-supercomputers will offer performance enhancements over desktop machines and provide sharing of expensive peripherals. Optical recorders capable of storing more than 100 terabytes each will hold archives of important datasets from ground- and space-based telescopes. Electronic networks will facilitate scientific collaboration and provide access to the national archives of observational and laboratory data. Despite the advances in local computing, there will still be a place for large central computers: multimillion dollar supercomputers will be bigger and faster versions of whatever is sitting on one's desk. These machines, with their huge memories, extensive disk capacity, and extremely fast processing and input and output rates, will be crucial to a minority of computer users with the most demanding programs.
Computers have become essential to the acquisition of astronomical data, offering enhancements in performance comparable in some cases to improvements due to new telescope and detector designs. Software engineering has become as important to the success of a new instrument as are mechanical,