Feeds

iPhones, tablets... Pah: By 2020, we'll froth over hot new SOFTWEAR

Cyborg me up - I'm ready and waiting for it, says El Reg's Trevor

The Power of One Brief: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

Sysadmin blog Within some admittedly fuzzy error bars, computing adoption seems to work in decade-long phases over the course of about 50 years. By my reckoning, those decades roughly work out to precursor technologies, niche adoption, commercialisation, mass market and eventual displacement. Within my lifetime, I have seen the rise of the PC, of notebooks, and of personal mobile devices; I know what I want the next round to be.

The 1960s were spent developing precursor technologies for what would eventually become the PC. The 1970s saw the first of what we would recognise today as "personal computers" even though at the time they were expensive, finicky and firmly in the realm of the hobbyist, but eventually appeared on office desks in the business world.

By the early 1980s, all the pieces of what we would consider to be the modern PC – including networking – were in place; the price had come down enough that they were invading small businesses and even homes. The 1990s saw PCs become ubiquitous; not to own one was to be a refusnik, or flirting with outright poverty. By the Naughties, PCs began to cede territory to notebooks.

In the 1970s, the precursor tech for notebooks and the very first prototypes appeared. Niche "portable" boxes reared their heads in the 1980s. The necessary tech to bring notebooks out of the "niche" category they occupied – such as the first reduced-power processors aimed at mobile – came along in the early 1990s.

By the Naughties we started to see the first of what I would consider to be modern notebooks; reasonably sleek and relatively portable with two to four hours of battery life. During this decade they achieved a status of acceptance and commonality occupied by PCs during the 1990s; indeed, they threaten to displace notebooks for most people.

Similarly, precursor tech of what would eventually be termed simply "mobile devices" appeared commercially in the 1980s and the first prototypes of true handheld computing arrived in the 1990s. These were quickly followed by the niche PDAs that marked my childhood tinkering. The Naughties – and Research In Motion – put smartphones into the hands of road warriors everywhere. Today, mobiles are beginning to displace the "must have" notebooks that preceded them.

What does this tell us about the future? Each of these major iterations of technology – each wave seemingly separated by a decade – solved a problem that I can remember articulating often and loudly in the decade before true mass adoption occurred. PCs solved the "I want access to a computer whenever I need it" problem. Simple, but important.

Notebooks solved the newly defined requirement to take your computing with you wherever you went: "I need to do from school/someone else's office what I can do at my desk." Personal mobile devices solved a convergence problem: "Do I really need a PDA, a mobile phone, and a notebook?"

The next wave, I believe, will be a return to truly personal computing; likely in the form of wearable computing. When I sit down to ask myself "what are the challenges facing me today; what would I pay money for" the answers are: simplicity, stability and privacy.

What I want is simple: I want a "personal computing space". Likely a nice wearable computer replete with Google Glass-style headset. I think Google's creepy (and dangerous) "augmented reality" approach to wearable computing is a nonstarter, but the basic tech it is putting on the table is a tasty starter. Ultimately, I hope the winner in this space will be one that has robust security and privacy.

My wearable computer should be one that is aware of the resources available to it and adjusts accordingly - from being able to wirelessly use the local projector or computer monitor to knowing what is in my personal media library or which corporate documents I have access to. I want a computer that nobody can shoulder-surf, which works only for me, knows my passwords, accounts, services, habits, moods, likes, dislikes and needs. I want a computer that doesn't require me to migrate a profile and personal settings, because it is my profile and personal settings - an interface that I set up once and nobody can change or deprecate on me.

The 1990s saw precursor tech and the first prototypes. The noughties saw the first niche units and hobbyist devices. If the pattern holds, this decade will see wearable computing commercialised for true mass market consumption in the 2020s. I can't wait. ®

Seven Steps to Software Security

More from The Register

next story
KDE releases ice-cream coloured Plasma 5 just in time for summer
Melty but refreshing - popular rival to Mint's Cinnamon's still a work in progress
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
Put down that Oracle database patch: It could cost $23,000 per CPU
On-by-default INMEMORY tech a boon for developers ... as long as they can afford it
Another day, another Firefox: Version 31 is upon us ALREADY
Web devs, Mozilla really wants you to like this one
Google shows off new Chrome OS look
Athena springs full-grown from Chromium project's head
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.