What is perfect? Perhaps it is impossible. Perhaps it depends on who you ask. Perfection is more of an idea that an achievable reality. Why is this? As I have probably said, perfection would equate to the end of the line. If it was perfect for all time, there would be no need for any more changes.
In 1983, IBM was working on a machine that was destined to be known as the IBM AT. The name of the group was “The End of the World Gang”. I was told that it was named this since the team thought that they could build a machine that would last forever. Some team members seriously told me, in 1986, that the team actually believed that once they built and released the AT, there would not be a need for any more machine models.
I was surprised by this cockeyness in an area of technology that is always improving. Clearly they were wrong, even in 1984 when it was first released. It was sort of a an untold joke that they had to face the fact that the AT was not going to exist until the end of time.
So where does that leave us now? We are certainly just as far from perfection since the computer industry began after WWII. That doesn’t seem to stop anybody from trying to improve things.
The next step in computing will most likely coming from better duplicating the framework of our brains. The writing is in the books that new forms of computing are on the horizon and they have little to do with our current silicon focus. Obscure and distant researching will, at some point, strike gold and then we will be entered into the next wave of accelerating change.
And of course the young will be the quickest to accept it. This is just a rule of age. The greater the change gradient, the more likely that only young people will accept it. I still have people in my family that are older that are reluctant to use ATMs let alone the Internet.
Most likely this raw power will go through a phase of “what do we do with it?”. I remember this clearly with the 386 and how the newspapers were struggling to see what they could do with all that computing resources. One paper advocated that perhaps it could provide good speech recognition. This was 1986! How long will it really take?
Then, someone will figure out how to better use the “brains” and the real use cases will come out. In the 386’s case, it allowed for some radically new operating systems that would have never been possible on the 286. Basically the 386 enabled computers to finally have graphical user interfaces that worked well. That, even though it is boring, was a big step forward for users.
The next wave of unseen machines will probably specialize more in “thinking”. Tasks which are difficult to do in current frameworks would be much easier if the computer could actually think for itself. I could briefly give examples of pattern recognition, and the anticipation of user requests and actions. “Thinking” software could more easily adapt to the challenges of the Internet coming from attacks and updating. In theory, these kind of machines would learn in a way simply that is currently impossible.
Storage capacities will continue to skyrocket as new technologies focus on static molecular structures being repositioned against other structures. Storage at the atom level is the goal and this kind of density is simply unbelievable.
Likely, memory also will expand. Instead of being static rows and columns, it will transition to a more three dimensional architecture that would allow for processors to be within the structure. Memory, too, is relative and will most likely come closer to duplicating how the brain works instead of just being a simple transistor flip flop model.
From time to time it is fun to think about what is coming. The interesting question is why we need all this?
Progress for the sake of progress is not progress. Progress for the sake of removing old barriers is more realistic.
However, we will never find perfection unless we judge what we currently have as being enough. This is highly unlikely given that most everyone wants more for less. Perhaps the greatest sin computer designers committed was to prove that it was possible to build machines cheaper and stronger. Where does that leave future designers? 🙂