August 21, 2003

the future computer, circa 2013

I just caught up with Jim O'Connell's question from last week:

So what do you think will be your "computer" in 2013? I'm guessing that I'll still be sitting in front of a QWERTY keyboard looking at a screen pretty much the way I do now - no voice or pen input and no artificial intelligence.

I've done some recent thinking in this regard. I'm going to assume mainstream users in the developed world, and I'm going to ignore most of the zillion embedded computers which will increasingly be inside virtually everything. Having said that, ten years from now I'll be quite surprised if we don't have at least 3 significant computerish environments in our daily lives -- a PC-like device, a personal ensemble that we carry/wear, and a digital home system.

Like Jim, I think the PC will look pretty familiar in 2013 from a user perspective. QWERTY keyboard, mouse, speakers, LCD screen, sit in a chair to use it. No speech interface, no gesture interface, no eye tracking, no pen, no AI butlers. Architecturally it will probably be similar as well; the biggest difference will be the speeds, feeds and capacities, which will seem enormous by today's standards. I'm guessing core CPU speeds in excess of 50GHz and 1 TIPS, 16GB RAM, 10TB primary storage, gigabit ethernet NIC, and integrated WLAN which will either be pretty fast (54Mb/s) or really fast (500Mb/s) depending on UWB's success. What we'll do with all that zorch, I have no idea. Maybe solitaire?

The nomadic ensemble is going to be interesting, and a bit hard to predict accurately. I'll leave aside laptops and tablets, which will certainly exist and be almost as damn fast as the PC, and maybe will have become the primary PC for a majority of folks (like my kid today). I believe our bodily specs will include figures like 10GHz, 1 TB, 10 megapixels, 2Mb/s WAN, 54Mb/s WLAN and 10Mb/s PAN. We'll also be thinking in terms of sensing: GPS, RFID, 3-axis accelerometers, biotelemetry. All these capabilities will be served up in a wildly diverse array of devices: superphones, ubercameras, wrist computers, personal servers, media players, and so on. However, I don't expect to see digital eyeglasses/HUDs in this timeframe, nor do I expect neural implants of any sort, sorry. Some wild cards that could make things even more nuts include flexible/foldable displays, and hydrogen fuel cells -- I don't expect them in the mainstream, but I won't rule them out completely either.

The 2013 digital home is still going to be pretty conventional looking, but it will likely be chock full of tech gear. Your TiVo will hold 2400 hours of standard def video, enough to record 10+ channels 24 hours a day for more than a week (if they put enough tuners in ;-) Your home server will hold 10-20TB of movies, music, pictures, blog posts and spam, and be connected via 1Gb ethernet to the outside world (not DSL/cable, I'm hoping!)... Multiple laptops, fast WLAN, full audio/video networking, digital picture frames, okay I guess I should quit, you get the general idea.

Oh, and I think we'll start to see physical hyperlinks show up all over the place.

Do you think I'm an optimist, a pessimist, or that I just missed?

Posted by Gene at August 21, 2003 04:27 PM | TrackBack
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