Technology: A Look Into the Future
May 26, 2006 7:00 AM PT
It's fun to think about how far we've come with technology and what the future might look like. For example, consider the Mark series of computers created at Harvard University in 1944 and you'll get some sense of how miniaturized computers have become. The Mark series was 55 feet long and 8 feet high! A present day sophisticated calculator, which fits in the palm of your hand, could easily compete with this old type computer.
I remember my first laptop that I purchased in 1994. It was rather large, especially considering how little it could do for me, and how difficult it was to use compared to what I have today. Now I can maneuver through a labyrinth of programs and processes in a seamless fashion.
In fact, what modern computer technology has given us, among other things, is miniaturization and, to a decent degree, an experience that is smooth and seamless. We've really come a long way.
What Technology Is Supposed to Do for Us
If you think about it, all of today's technology is about information -- creating it, sending it, retrieving it and manipulating it. Consider the brilliance of the Google search engine. We can quickly retrieve an enormous amount of data in a brief period of time. In fact, the research I do for my firm and for my writing has become tremendously easy because I can get to so much information, so quickly.
Listen to Ted di Stefano (7:58 minutes)
It's all about information!
A Glance at Present-Day Technology
On a recent flight back from Europe, I paused to appreciate all of the technology I had at my fingertips. My plane had a WiFi hookup, enabling me to use the Internet to retrieve and send e-mails, as well as do research. The laptop I have has quite a bit of power and speed, and it can easily hold virtually thousands of my files and documents.
When I landed in the states, I took my Palm Treo 650 out of my briefcase. This handy PDA gives me the ability to retrieve hundreds of contacts, some with an attached photo of the business associate or family member, review my appointment calendar, send and receive e-mails, make wireless phone calls, take photos, make short videos, etc. All with a small, but powerful device! And, incidentally, I have a Bluetooth headphone for my Palm Treo which means that I don't have to be constantly fooling with my cell phone.
A Look Into the Future
As I was thinking about how far technology has come, I started to imagine where we might be in, let's say, 10 or 15 years. Here's what I came up with:
All computers (if they'll exist as we know them today) will be broadband capable, without cable. Yes, the world will go WiFi (see my article WiFi Will Change The World). Furthermore, you probably won't have to worry about your computer crashing, because you won't have a computer. All of your files and information will reside somewhere on the Web in a secure site. Additionally, all of your "computing" will be done on the Internet, not on your computer.
Worried about some massive catastrophe that affects the Internet? Don't be concerned. Your data will be automatically backed up on some exotic drive, somewhat similar to today's flash memory stick. In fact, your files might actually be backed up on some sort of redundant Internet -- one that is totally secure. So, you might not even have a physical memory stick in your possession.
Since you won't have a computer, you'll just need a very basic monitor that is wirelessly connected to the Internet. You won't even have a keyboard. Why? Because your monitor will have very sophisticated voice recognition capability. Therefore, typing will become an obsolete skill. Think about how many secretaries computers have already replaced!
How would you get your monitor to "listen" to you? Simple. You would merely say a password or just "speak" to your monitor. That will light up your monitor and connect it to your files on the Internet. Your monitor will recognize your voice. So, when you got home from work, you'd merely have to start "talking" to your monitor and it will be there for you with all of your files and information at the ready.
Let's take this imagining a step further. I'm sure you've heard of holograms. They produce images that look real and solid, rather than flat. They will become so advanced and effective that you won't need a physical monitor. By merely speaking to some sort of receiving device on your desk, a hologram of a monitor will appear. You will merely speak into "it" and you will be on your computer, speaking as you would to any person.
Home Entertainment Centers
How about your home entertainment center? The entertainment center of the immediate future will, supposedly, operate entirely through a central processing unit (CPU). This CPU will eliminate the need for your TV, stereo, CD recorder, VCR, etc. All of these appliances will function out of your CPU, thus eliminating the need for them.
But, let's get back to those holograms. With the hologram that I'm talking about, you won't need a TV screen. The hologram will serve as your TV monitor.
In 10-15 years, all of your entertainment choices (TV, songs, movies, etc.) will reside somewhere out there in a secure site on the Internet. You most likely will pay a monthly fee for the storage of your information on this site and for the use of a super-fast computer that you will never actually see.
Thinking further about these exciting prospects, maybe everyone in your family won't want to watch the same programs or movies on your virtual TV. Well, they would each have their set of special viewing glasses with which they could see and hear their favorite programs or movies.
In a nutshell, all of your technological devices will be integrated, with no visible hardware. You'll be living in a virtual world!
One final point: I can only theorize about the engineering and mechanics behind this whole system -- the WiFi device that would be voice activated, communicate with the Internet, create a hologram for you and use voice recognition. Unfortunately, my background is entirely in finance and strategy and I can only dream. I'll leave the implementation to the experts.
Theodore F. di Stefano is a founder and managing partner at Capital Source Partners, which provides a wide range of investment banking services to the small and medium-sized business. He is also a frequent speaker to business groups on financial and corporate governance matters. He can be contacted at Ted@capitalsourcepartners.com.