During my last meeting with yamavu, we talked a bit about how computers
and technology in general is coming along these days and how I would see what's ahead.
Currently, there seem to be two extreme views on our outlook: the "it-won't-change-much-at-all"
view and the "omfg-star-trek-is-going-to-happen-soon"
Since I work with computers for all of my professional career (a whooping 20 years almost)
I think I can word my own view here.
Let's compare what is happening now with computers with what happened with cars, shall we?
The car was invented about the turn of the last century (1885 if I'm not mistaken) and
initially was an oddity for the rich and powerful as well as the military. Broad civil use
started around the late 1920's I think, later in the non-Ford-driven countries (or is that "driving"? :)
Around the 1950's and 1960's "future researchers" (a.k.a. sci-fi fans who successfully
pretended that they were actual scientists) predicted all sorts of whacky car models that
the future will bring: cars with kitchens, floating cars, flying cars, submarine cars, etc.
And they told us: "This is what all our future cars will look like!"
Now, 50 some years later, what has become true? We do have "cars with kitchens" - RV's
and the military also has floating cars but has any of this become the "norm"? No. And
I don't think it ever will be either. Because everything predicted was just special
use cases for special people's needs. We did however get improvements in the basic design:
lower wind resistance, Antilock Break Systems, Power Steering, Airbags... the list is
long. But none of these were popular predictions.
Which brings me to computers. Computers were invented during WWII - around 1940 - by the
military. Broad civil use started around the rise of the Personal Computer - during the
mid 1970's. That's roughly the same timespan as it is with cars. And then the different
ideas were thrown into the mix, some proved OK others just silly. Some useful stuff
might have been canned just because it wasn't lucrative. Anyhow: "future researchers" (again!)
predict all sorts of weird computer stuff to happen up to the point that they actually think
"The Matrix" is just around the corner. Personally I think that - like with cars - the
computers are going to be improved for more efficiency. That is: faster, bigger memories,
larger data throughput with less space and power consumption. But that's about it.
If we want to have another "big technology wave" we have to look at completely new
technologies. Something that wasn't there before. Computers as we have them today
can do pretty much anything we could want a computer to do. They even can read
and understand our voices - which needs much further improvement of course but still:
the basic feature is already here.
So the real interesting question to ask isn't "What's the technological future of computers?" but
rather "What's the next big technological fab going to be?"
Here, have a cookie if you read all of this! ;)