In every form of digital store-and-forward communication, intermediate forwarding nodes are computers, with attendant memory and processing resources. This has inevitably stimulated efforts to create a wide-area infrastructure that goes beyond simple store-and-forward to create a platform that makes more general and varied use of the potential of this collection of increasingly powerful nodes. Historically, these efforts predate the advent of globally routed packet networking. The desire for a converged infrastructure of this kind has only intensified over the last 30 years, as memory, storage, and processing resources have increased in both density and speed while simultaneously decreasing in cost. Although there is a general consensus that it should be possible to define and deploy such a dramatically more capable wide-area platform, a great deal of investment in research prototypes has yet to produce a credible candidate architecture. Drawing on technical analysis, historical examples, and case studies, we present an argument for the hypothesis that in order to realize a distributed system with the kind of convergent generality and deployment scalability that might qualify as "future-defining," we must build it from a small set of simple, generic, and limited abstractions of the low level resources (processing, storage and network) of its intermediate nodes.