Welcome to the future

Langenburg High School
Langenburg, Saskatchewan

By Mark C. (Grade 12)

The future should be a very interesting place. With new technology being developed every day, we are being flung into the next millennia by the seat of our virtual pants. With more powerful computers, new technologies, and the Internet which connects millions of computers around the globe, the future should be quite exciting.

Let's turn back the clocks a bit for just a moment. It wasn't all that long ago that we were using 8086's with 640 K RAM and a 10 megabyte hard drive - if you were lucky. These babies screamed at 8 megahertz, creating a boring text-based monochrome world. Today, Intel has just released its new Pentium II, which will break a speed barrier at an eye-popping 266 megahertz. By the end of the year, Intel plans to reach 400 megahertz with the Intel Deschutes. Wow! Two hundred and sixty-six megahertz! Many people say, "Why would you possibly need a computer that fast? My 486 runs WordPerfect just fine, and that's all I need." It is hard to argue with that logic. Now, there are two kinds of these "486" people: those like me, who would kill for a Pentium Pro with 64 MB RAM, and those who really are happy with their 486 or (gasp) even their 386 or, worse yet, their Mac (ahhhhh!) People of the second type are usually slightly computer-phobic. They think that once something works, don't fix it, which makes complete sense. They just don't seem to be excited about "looking around the corner" and seeing what all these new techno-toys can do in the world of tomorrow. Some people like this are prone to "tunnel vision". They just honestly can't see the benefit of loading WordPerfect, three seconds faster than before. It's just three seconds. True, but they don't realize that new computers can play incredibly smooth full-screen video, surround us with rich wavetable sound, dazzle us with power and speed, and connect us to the Information Superhighway, allowing us to communicate with the entire world in a matter of seconds.

Many people complain that six months or a year after they buy their computers, they are obsolete. I beg to differ. I think that by the time you haul your new stack of boxes across the parking lot to your car, the machine is obsolete. This can be very frustrating (and costly, for that matter) but this constant development is what flings us into the future.

True, today's computers are fast. But, with new developments made in the computer fields every day (or rather every second), the future will be very intense. Not too far down the road, we can expect to see computers using Intel's Pentium MCMDXXVII processor running at 85 gigahertz with 32 gigabytes of RAM, a 6.4 terabyte hard drive, and a dodeca speed DVD player, all connected with a fibre optic bus. Really, this can, and will, happen. When it does, I'll probably still have my old 486 which in the future, will be used as a doorstop or target practice, whichever is in need.

Let's have a look at some of the high-tech "toys" that we have today and what we can expect to see in the not-too-distant future:

Now, two people can video-conference from all corners of the world by using a small camera that sits on top of their computer, a microphone, a modem, and a phone line. A countless number of e-mail messages are rocketed through the Internet each day, closing business deals and creating new opportunities.

Many people cannot touch-type at 80 words a minutes (myself included). But now, for less than two hundred dollars (US, of course), you can get a voice recognition package, which comes with special software and a microphone. Once you teach the software your speech patterns by reading to it, you can sit back, hands free, and talk to your word processing software.

Other fun toys, like scanners, digital cameras, and imaging software allow us to do crazy things like scan in Uncle Jed's head and place in on the scanned body of another unsuspecting relative, and colour his eyebrows antifreeze green. Seriously, though, these things do have extensive practical uses in the world today, from Web Publishing to business presentations, and beyond.

The Internet may prove to be the most exciting development of all. With the creation of technologies like Java and RealAudio, movies and sounds can be streamed across the Internet directly to you and played back in real time, avoiding those long .wav (sound) and .avi (video)file downloads we have all grown to hate. This is the concept of RealAudio. If some of you are confused by now, Java is a programming language used on the Internet. By using it, programmers create small programs or applications called "applets" that download from the Internet and run in your web browser. These applets can range from useful to just plain bizarre, such as a loan calculator on a bank's web site, or popping Virtual Bubble Wrap. (Really, this exists, and it's kind of fun. Have a look at www.mackerel.com/bubblewrap.html .)

Of course, with all these advancements, problems inevitably arise. The Internet is a living, breathing sort of thing that links us all together. If this link is broken, things get nasty, to say the least. Many people find themselves lost when they can't connect to their Internet Service Provider to check their e-mail and look at the corporate web site, or whatever. As a rule, I usually get grouchy with a technical support rep who really can't do much about the problem anyway. "Keep trying. The server will be up soon." What am I supposed to do until then?

Imagine the possibilities. Being able to have a full-fledged desktop computer in your shirt pocket that responds to your spoken commands. Or having an Internet meeting with forty-nine other executives scattered all around the world in better than TV quality.

Without a doubt, the future will be full of new technology and full of change. With new technologies emerging daily, we have no idea what the future holds but we plunge on forever forward into the vast technological world. It will be a world of instantaneous data transfer and 100 gigabit Internet connections. Welcome.

Front Page Soap Box