by December 5, 2002 0 comments

Movies always create wondrous images of what the future is going to be. But
then the minute we step outside the theatre, we take a deep breath and tell
ourselves that it’s not possible. Reality has a knack, however, of catching up
fast enough with the movies. And, often the changes are so subtle that we take
them for granted. In this story, we take you through the most visible changes
happening right now around us.

It is all in the movies.

It is science fiction, particularly movies that create wondrous images of what the future would be like. Fortunately enough, reality has a knack of caching up fast enough.

Man to Machine
In Minority Report, Tom Cruise uses hand gestures to sift through
the input that comes from the precogs. An almost similar technology is on
the shelves right now
Honey, I Shrunk the Machines
As material science reaches its physical limits, a new era is
emerging where complex machinery and enormous amounts of data storage
would be built at the atomic scale
ET… Phone… Home…
Today’s powerful receivers can listen in for signals of extra-terrestrial intelligence
Real World, Virtual Reality
Train people, simulate processes and design products using
powerful computers
Smart Implants for the Disabled
The miniaturization of techno-products is beginning to change the
lives of the disabled
Massive Storage
Holographic storage can
accommodate terabytes of data in small spaces. How does it do so?
Computers of Tomorrow
Quantum and biological computing involve, a shift, both in the
materials used in the creation of the processing power and in the logic

Take the case of Minority Report. Tom Cruise uses gloves with detectors on them to navigate a computer display in 2054. Data gloves are already commercially available. Take Terminator. Schwarzenegger is machine, made to function as man. There are already intelligent machine parts being built into people, mostly to help invalids regain lost functionality. If the Matrix was about a possible virtual future, then that future is already here–geologists at our own ONGC work in virtual environments to figure out the best oil-drilling strategies.

Computing is fast approaching the limits of physical progress. Classical material science is straining to pack more transistors or more data bits per square inch–they are already designing them at molecular levels. To overcome this limit, new materials have to be engineered or entirely new ways of doing the same things have to be found out. Again, the good news is that both are happening. Embedded computing and nanotechnologies, in particular, have made strides in recent times.

All this sums up to one conclusion–that computing as we know it, is in for some incredible changes. It will no longer just be a race for the megahertz crown or the gigabyte crown. A new computing paradigm will lead to a new set of rules and a newer set of comparison parameters. We do not know what those rules will be or what those parameters will be. But we do know in what direction the changes will be.

It is not that one day things will suddenly and irrevocably change. The change over will be slow and probably not noticeable. Not noticeable till you suddenly sit up and realize that things are just not like what they were. The first signs of the change are already here. In the following pages, we will take you through the most visible changes happening right now around us. Read and be ready, lest you find some time in the near future that you’ve missed the bus.

Krishna Kumar

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