Futurist Jakob Nielsen asserts that home computers will have microprocessors running at 3 petahertz (300,000 gigahertz) that have a petabyte's worth of memory, a billion gigabytes of storage and a 250-gigabit broadband connection.
Such machines would likely surpass the capabilities of NEC's Earth Simulator. Sensor networks, robots and biological chips would enable us to leave network management, health care and many household tasks to machines. Every moment of your life would be preserved on video.
History says it will be true. Today's PDAs (personal digital assistants) make early supercomputers look like stone knives and bear skins. People adapt, too. Fifteen years ago, e-mail wasn't indispensable: It was nearly nonexistent. Servers you wear on your belt are coming soon.
Still, predictions don't always come true. In the same paper that outlined Moore's Law, Intel's Gordon Moore predicted that silicon wafers would measure 57 inches in diameter by now. Actually, they measure 12 inches. Memory chips made of polymers, a lab experiment now, were supposed to become standard in the 1970s. Power consumption, cost and the physics could hamper progress. Moore's Law is expected to run out of steam by 2021. And who wants his life captured on video, anyway?
What do you think computing will look like in 30 years? And, if you were working in the industry decades ago, did you think we would get this far?
--June 8, 2004