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Why are we all still using 1984 technology?

US boffin offers his file wisdom

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Today's computer file system is outdated and dead, and will be replaced by a set-up allowing users to access their data from any Net-connected device.

Speaking at PCExpo/TechX in New York, Yale University Computer Science professor David Gelernter, said today's "poor" information management tools were in desperate need of a make-over.

Gelernter told conference attendees: "Your cyberlife is scattered as if you'd emptied a filing cabinet out of an aeroplane".

He said finding files should be as easy as finding a phone number on a mobile phone, with the elimination of the need to name files and have them restricted to just one folder.

"There are no everything structures," he said, adding that many people had files stored on multiple machines, such as notebooks, work and home desktops, and PDAs, and were therefore often unable to access them at any one time, from any location.

And although there have been huge improvements in computer hardware over the past two decades, the same cannot be said for information management software, according to Gelertner.

"In short, nothing much has happened in core information management since 1984," he said. "We rely on our core information management on 1984 software. How many 1984 PCs do we have in use today?"

The next step, according to Gelernter, is "narrative management systems", where all files - emails, faxes, Word documents, photos, digital music - appear together chronologically on screen.

Geletner is also chief scientist for US software company Mirror Worlds Technologies, (you must have guessed he was selling something - Ed) which has developed this P2P distributed computing "stream" technology, called Scopeware. This is constantly updated on screen, with the most recent "file" appearing at the front.

It can also be used as a joint stream for companies, with employees getting a private view (including their own personal information such as emails) of the public stream (such as corporate announcements, meetings etc).

The stream can be accessed from any online PC, laptop or cell phone.

"It is designed for computers instead of for file clerks," said Gelertner.

"Today's computing hardware is spectacular," he concluded, adding that information management software needed to catch up. ®

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