The other day a friend of mine was decrying some of his colleagues. It seems that his coworkers had to produce reports, and send the electronic documents to him for archival. When all was said and done, however, some of the reports turned in were hand written, and therefore there was no electronic version. He was lamenting that these individuals needed to understand that computers weren’t going away, and that they had to learn sooner or later how to work with them.
This got me thinking about the state of computers and their future. Computers have come a long way in the last decade or two, but speaking as someone who lived through those years, believe me when I say that there was practically no way you could look at the state of the world then and predict the world today. So how could one predict what computers will be like a decade or two in the future?
The answer is that while you probably can’t nail specifics, buy you can safely predict the overall trends. And one major trend that can be safely expected is that computers will disappear in the future. They’ll become invisible, fading into the background of everyday life. They might become part of the desk, or wall, or get merged into the TV, but the hardware will probably not be a box, mouse and keyboard. Software will also change: I fully expect that the current process of learning how to use a word processor, for example, will be replaced by a word processor learning how to work with you.
So the people today who don’t want to write documents on a word processor might be able to, perhaps, hand write them (on a future Tablet PC that’s actually looks like a note pad?) and the word processor of the future will save the document. The Luddites, those who don’t want to use technology, won’t even know that they’ve been converted. Everyone wins.