Friday, January 13, 2006

George Mindling Column 01-13-2006 - Smaller Technology

Technology Gets Smaller

Looking at the new pen-shaped computers that shine the keyboard image and the display screen on the surface of your desk much like a flashlight beam, I realize that I will likely lose this future generation PC as often as I used to lose my old Cross pen. Not only are PCs shrinking, so are all the other electronic gadgets we have come to love and cherish. Everything will be smaller and no unit will be limited to only one function. The units of the future will have some sort of computer, telephone, video, and whatever else technology creates a need for, all built in. It will be a handheld wireless unit that can communicate with just about anything else. Wireless Bluetooth technology has shown the desirability of interconnecting seemingly unrelated components. Any Bluetooth capable unit can communicate with any other Bluetooth capable unit in proximity, almost anywhere in the world.

Downloading videos and movies for large flat-panel home theaters as well as PCs will become a real threat to traditional theaters. The popularity of the new flat screen, high definition televisions and the advent of superb home sound systems have already been blamed for a downturn in traditional theater attendance. The transfer of data will increase with the capabilities of the media. In the business arena, older methods of data transfer, such as faxing are already fading out, replaced by Internet and PC document transfer using formats such as Adobe’s PDF.

With the ability to interconnect different technologies, such as through Bluetooth compatible components, the trend of combining functionality is as important as miniaturization. I have a serious problem though; my fingers are already too big for most cell phones and many remote control units. I assume the next generation of users will have little, pointed stylus instead of fingernails. Either that or voice recognition will become the defacto computer interface. Just like Star Trek.

Cell phones have had Global Positioning capabilities for several years now, and if you have a GM car with On Star, you probably were told you were sitting in your driveway the first time you used it. How long will it be before all this is microminiaturized and placed in an incredibly small chip?

Having spent most of my working life on call, I used to joke about having small microchips imbedded in our sculls that would allow our employer to keep continuous track of our whereabouts. With the advent of identity microchips being commonly implanted in dogs, I am now beginning to worry. I’m sure security microchips of some sort have been developed, but I haven’t seen a multifunctional video receiver/cell phone that can be implanted in a human yet. I have no doubt an electronics designer somewhere has considered it. Imagine watching Fox news or CNN, or your favorite sit-com whenever and wherever you want. Just shut your eyes and kick back.

Marshall McLuhan was absolutely correct: “The medium is the message.”

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