What Your Computer Might Look Like in 10 Years
Twenty-five years ago, a qualified job applicant was expected to be a capable typist who could work their way around an electric typewriter. Today, most companies expect their new hires to be expert PC users who are fluent in a number of programs (Excel, PowerPoint, PhotoShop, you name it).
When Remington manufactured the typewriter back in the late 1800s, little did anyone know that it would gradually morph into the computer, which has developed into a multifunctional device that is a staple in many people’s lives. But researchers and technology experts predict that the computer as we know it today is evolving into an even faster, “smarter” system that will be easier to use and maintain.
In addition to working on our computers at the office for several hours a day, computers now also serve as one-step entertainment “venues,” which allow users to listen to music, watch movies, create photo albums, and more. According to Claire Doyle Ragin, a Durham, N.C., web design and communication professional, “Computers in the home are becoming home entertainment centers. We will probably ditch cable next year and get video over the Net. Between hulu.com and Netflix instant downloads, I see no reason to have cable.”
Christopher Lampton, who has written extensively about consumer technology and has published approximately 100 books on a wide variety of subjects, says, “Over the next few years we'll see two major trends: One is the increasing interconnection of the electronic devices we use on a daily basis and the other is the proliferation of smart, tiny gadgets that can be used away from home. I already have my television networked to my desktop computer via my XBox 360, so that I can sit in the living room and stream video and music from my computer, watch movies from Netflix at the click of a button, and play video games, all without moving from my couch. I also have a collection of smaller gadgets -- a cell phone, an iPod Touch, and an e-book reader -- that I can carry with me when I go outside.”
Computers of the future
According to a November 2007 Computer World story, magnetic disk drives in laptops and other devices will be replaced with nanotechnology in the next few years, which will greatly speed up performance. LiveScience.com also reported in July 2008 that researchers had created the first artificial DNA, which will influence technological advancements, including computers.
As “Sam,” a security engineer and tech expert who wishes to remain anonymous because of the nature of his job, explains: “With regard to nanotechnology and artificial DNA, computers are going to get smaller and be able to handle more tasks. For example, I see artificial DNA being used with accelerating the use of 'self-healing' servers (servers that can fix themselves when a problem occurs).”
According to Lampton, “What technology experts want to achieve is what they've wanted to achieve for decades now: computerized devices with more capacious storage and faster processing units. Nanotech and DNA-based computers are just possible means to these ends.”
The “smart” era
Will all this signal the end of the desktop computer as we know it? According to our experts, that day will eventually come. “Smart phones these days can accomplish most tasks that users require. Desktop and laptop computers will still be around for a while, but they will eventually be replaced by smart terminals in offices and smart phones in the field,” Sam says. He also predicts that computer circuitry will get smaller and smaller, with more features embedded into the device, and voice commands will be an option but not the norm. (Most people like the anonymity of typing rather than speaking, he explains.)
Doyle Ragin concurs: “Why lug around a computer when you can check your email, browse the web, etc., on a phone?”
Cloud computing and web storage services also allow you to securely store all your documents, photos, downloads and more in the ‘cloud’ (the Internet) instead of your hard drive. According to Lampton, “Cloud computing can make the size of your computer's external memory effectively infinite.”
Updating your computer
As Lampton explains, “As for users, their computer needs will depend on what they plan to do. If all you want to do is type documents and send email, the computer you have today will probably still meet your needs in ten years.”
If you're not quite ready to ditch your laptop for a nanotechnology machine with artificial DNA, there are various programs that can help extend your existing PC's lifespan, such as Computer Checkup Premium and PerfectSpeed. Computer Checkup, for example, helps your computer run faster by cleaning up its hard drive, removing unnecessary startup items, cleaning the Windows registry and correcting common security flaws.
“For most people, the main motivation for upgrading may be to keep up with the increasingly large amount of data streaming on the Internet," Lampton says. "If you want to watch high-definition streaming video off the World Wide Web in real time while simultaneously carrying on a virtual conversation with several friends, you'll need a fast computer, a fast graphics card, and a fast Internet Service Provider.”
-- Tara Taghizadeh --