1) A way to describe the lowest common denominator, in terms of processing power inside a computing location, other than the server.
2) In cable, “thin client” currently means the lowest common denominator in digital set-top feature sets. It’s the opposite of the “thick client,” meaning a digital box loaded with processing power and memory, and capable of doing multiple, complex applications.
Thick v. thin has less to do with physical size than it does with capabilities: How much processing power, graphics capability, and memory resources are available.
Metaphorically, thick versus thin is like Americans. Generation by generation, we get taller and heavier. Photographs of ancestors show smaller, shorter people; your grandmother’s china hardly seems big enough to hold today’s ample servings. You order a cup of coffee in another country, and embarrass yourself with your surprise at its thimble-like capacity (at which point you know for sure that you are an American).
Ditto for set-tops. Motorola’s DCT-1000 was gigantic compared to the various analog units that constituted the set-top landscape, in 1995. Those very boxes, great-grandfathers now, seem tiny by functional comparison to today’s digital boxes.
The next chapter of the thin client will likely coincide with the digital transition, and the development of low-cost, digital-to-analog converters, perhaps the size of a deck of cards, that seamlessly convert the huge installed base of analog TVs and VCRs into units that can display a digital picture.
In the 2005 timeframe, those “DTA” (Digital Terminal Adaptor) gizmos were envisioned as having enough resources to offer a guide, digital music, all digital video channels, and (theoretically) OCAP-based access to on-demand titles. As time progressed, the feature set slimmed D:A conversion only, to keep costs down.