posted by Nicholas Blachford on Thu 11th Mar 2004 19:36 UTC

"Future of computing, Page 3/3"

Now, Back to Planet Earth for the Conclusion and a New Platform...

In the future computers as we know them today will become playthings for geeks, just like steam locomotives or vintage cars are today. Computing however will surround us, in Phones in TVs and in many other areas, we may not recognise it though. There will still be workstations, the descendants of today's desktop PCs. The alternative computer manufacturers may become the only ones left serving those who want the "real thing".

Before we get to that stage an awful lot is going to happen. In the short term the current manufacturers and technology leaders will continue to duke it out for a bigger share of the market. Wireless will become the norm but I don't expect it to have a smooth ride, people are paranoid enough about mobile phones damaging health and expect more powerful devices to cause more controversy. RFID tags will make it into everything but I can see sales of amateur radios going up as the more paranoid try to fry them. Longer term technology trends mean what we know as computers today will change over time into things we may not even consider as computers. Technology will get faster and better, easier to use, smaller and eventually as Moore's law slows down it'll last longer as well.

How we build technology will change and an infant industry will become another part of society subject to it's rules and regulations, it'll never be the same as the last 30 years, but this will be a gradual process. That's not to say innovation will die, there's a lot of technologies not yet our desktops which have yet to play their part. We have seen radical platforms arrive in the 70s and 80s and evolution playing it's part in the 90s and 00s. I think radicalism will return to the desktop but I don't know who will have the resources or for that fact, the balls to do it.

The Next Platform
The following is a description of a fictional platform. Like the radical platforms in the 80s it's based on the combination of mostly existing technologies into something better than anything that has gone before. I don't know if anyone will build it but I expect any radical new platform which comes along will incorporate at least some of the features from it:

It'll have a CPU, GPU and some smaller special purpose devices (start with what works first).

It'll have a highly stable system in the bottom OS layers and at the top it'll be advanced and user friendly (for the software as well).

The GPU will be more general purpose so it'll speed things up amazingly when programmed properly (Perhaps a Cell processor?).

There'll be an FPGA and a collection of libraries so you can use them to boost performance of some intensive operations onto another planet.

It'll run a hardware virtualising layer so you can run multiple *platforms* simultaneously.

It'll run anything you want as it'll include multiple CPU emulators and will to all intents and purposes be ISA agnostic.

The CPU will have message passing, process caching and switching in hardware so there'll be no performance loss from the micro-kernel OS, in fact these features may mean macro-kernels will be slower.

The GUI will be 3D but work in 2D as well, It'll be ready for volumetric displays when they become affordable. When they do expect to see a lot of people looking very silly as they wave their hands in the air, the mouse will then become obsolete.

It'll be really easy to program.

It will include a phone and you will be able to fit it into your pocket (though maybe not in the first version).

And Finally...
That is my view of the Future of Computing and the possibilities it will bring. I don't expect I've been right in everything but no one trying to predict the future ever is. I guess we'll find out some day. I hope you've enjoyed reading my thoughts.

Thanks to the people who wrote comments and sent me e-mails, there were some very good comments and interesting links to follow.

So, I've enjoyed my stint as an anti-historian. What do you expect will happen? Maybe your predictions of the future are completely different, why not write them down, I look forward to reading them.

----------------------------

References

[1] A page on AI in Science fiction (Warning: may require sunglasses).
http://www.aaai.org/AITopics/html/scifi.html

[2] Some of Roger Penrose's thoughts on AI.
http://plus.maths.org/issue18/features/penrose/

[3] AI the Movie.
http://www.indelibleinc.com/kubrick/films/ai/

[4] Yours truly, 2095 from the ELO album "Time". By Jeff Lynne
http://janbraum.unas.cz/elo/ELO/diskografie/Time.htm

[5] H G Wells' The War of the Worlds
http://www.bartleby.com/1002/
Jeff Wayne's musical version of the story is one of my favourite CDs:
http://www.waroftheworldsonline.com/musical.htm

Copyright (c) Nicholas Blachford March 2004

Disclaimer:
This series is about the future and as such is nothing more than informed speculation on my part. I suggest future possibilities and actions which companies may take but this does not mean that they will take them or are even considering them.

Table of contents
  1. "Future of computing, Page 1/3"
  2. "Future of computing, Page 2/3"
  3. "Future of computing, Page 3/3"
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