Random thoughts about technology. Past, Present & Future

Posted: July 11, 2010 in Apple, hardware, iphone, technology
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I’ve been thinking about the future a lot lately, both from a business perspective, a family perspective and a technology perspective. The business perspective is easy enough, just work as hard as i can and as long as i can to get ahead. Family? well, that is easy too. Just survive the tween years and the teen years and we should be good. (I know i’m oversimplifying, but bare with me) Technology is where it gets interesting and a little more unpredictable.  Or does it?

Technology changes so fast.  Just take a look at all the new products that come out nearly daily. Sure, some are just tweaks of existing products, but many are total overhauls using the latest innovations and advances to their fullest.

So who knows what’s coming next? Well, there are a few people that seem to. Mostly because they drive the market, sometimes with products we didn’t even know we needed.  Apple is a great example of this, as are Samsung, Sony, Motorola and even HP.  Take for example the Walkman in the early 80’s.  That created a market, that has since been changed into the Discman for Cd’s and its offshoot the portable DVD player, and then finally the MP3 player (which if you ask most people, they would simply call it the iPod since it practically rules that market).

Cellular phones are another example.  They are changing so often who even knows what model is the newest when companies like Samsung release half a dozen different models at practically the same time.  Subtle differences within them allow the manufacturers to see which features are the most preferred and continue to develop along those lines.  Sort of a survival of the fittest within their own manufacturing lines it seems.  When you think of the name Samsung, everyone thinks of cel-phones, probably digital cameras and video-cameras, and more than likely appliances, but they are also the world’s 2nd largest manufacturer of printers.

Sony is constantly trying to create better products than those on the market, whether its TV’s, Cameras or Computers, they always are trying to one-up the competition, and in my opinion, spreading themselves a bit thin in doing so.  Did you even know they have a Reader similar to the Kindle? (check it out here).

Motorola is another company that has so many product models on the market that it’s difficult to choose.  They are really concentrating on the cel-phone market, and their Droid offerings are quite impressive alternates to the iPhone or Blackberries.  Most of their products are communication based, but you never know if that will change.  Kodak for instance was one of the original manufacturers of film stock and very big into cameras and optics for some time, but is now mostly dealing in digital image capture, storage & manipulation as well as printing.  You have to stay current and roll with the times or end up slipping away into obscurity.

predecessor to the dvd

Speaking of obscurity.  Remember the laserdisc?  It was ahead of its time in some ways, but never found its market for a number of reasons mostly dealing with cost of the players and the discs.  There were other options and other tech that did the same thing for less, which spelled the end of the laserdisc. There are still some people out there with working players i’m sure, and from what I know the picture quality was very good and probably still is if you don’t mind watching movies from the 80’s.

videotape. an old idea that is past its time

This same weeding out process happens all over the tech world.  VCRs for instance.  You had the choice of Beta or VHS for a while, but Sony backed the wrong horse on that one (the BetaMax), and i’m sure its still a sore spot that doesn’t get mentioned by corporate very often.

So what do I think is next? Aside from the obvious “smaller, better, faster” there is also the multi-purpose-multi-function devices.  While it seems that this type of thinking would make some companies’ product lines smaller, it’s also refining the product line to make each product that does survive that much better.  The latest iPhone 4 and some of the newest Blackberry models for instance are pushing that envelope to try and make themselves the only device you need to carry.  I’m all for that, since I really do hate having to carry a cel phone AND a good quality camera.  It’s really a no brainer that these are the kind of products that are going to be evolving for years and becoming more engrained into our personal as well as business lives.

What may not be a no brainer is the move towards integrated tech in appliances and entertainment systems.  TVs in fridges seems a bit extravagant to some, but why not start integrating TV screens into other places?  Microwave doors for instance.  Eye level oven? Why not put a screen in it too.

There has been a steady move towards enabling network access in TVs.  Many are coming with network cards built in, which when paired with a home network that has storage for all your music, photos & movies (both theatrical and home-made) can make getting what you want to see when you want to see it so much easier.  The elimination of all the components beneath your tv is going to enable us to get those clear simplistic lines we seem to be so fond of.  Just a TV on the wall, plugged into outlets for both power and network and you’re done.  Provide this TV with wireless network access and the install get even easier and cleaner.  And further still, remove the need for power to be provided thru wires and now we are getting into Star Trek land.  Wireless power is out there already, but needs a lot more work before it becomes commonplace, but even so, the ability to place a LCD or LED screen on a wall, desk, table, whatever, and be able to display anything in your library without having to run wires to it is going to change the way we interact with and use media in the home and the office.

Take that technology and introduce the ability to use virtual keyboards with it and we are really starting to get beyond the dreams of even Gene Roddenberry and his incredibly futuristic tech ideas.  Imagine calling up a virtual keyboard and typing and swiping in air to get where you want to go, or retrieve the movie you were looking for.  Seems a little out there I know, but a student at M.I.T. (sixthsense) already had a working prototype of just such a thing, “augmented reality” is the term often used, and it’s mind-blowing to see it in action, let alone start to ponder the implications of not being tied down to a device.  Having the ability to harness that kind of processing power anywhere at anytime is truly the stuff that the great sci-fi writers were dreaming about.

Art often imitates life, and Art, when it comes to writing, often steers technology it seems.  So many of the great devices we use everyday can be seen in sci-fi movies and tv shows from yesteryear, and we have dreamers and writers to thank for that.  It’s those ideas that often get the science minded engineering and inventing types working on making those wonderful devices real.

I believe the future IS written. Not in the way that we can’t change it, I don’t believe that philosophy. It’s written by the dreamers and storytellers that help spur on the creative juices of the more technical minded who take that fantastical ideas and make them reality.

To quote Yoko Ono… “We are all dreamers creating the next world, the next beautiful world for ourselves and for our children.”

Dream dear readers, dream.

tcg.

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