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Technology of the Future

Happy New Year! January is a great time to break out the crystal ball and see what new technologies will change the way we live and work.  The following post was written by Max Anderson, Technology Coordinator for the NN/LM Greater Midwest Region. It originally appeared on the Cornflower blog.

Technology typically changes exponentially. I remember when I worked for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Help Desk Staff telling me that RAM doubles in size every 18 months.   At first I didn’t really know what RAM was, so I just said “wow!” Now I do know what RAM is and does, but my brain overfloweth with the number of emerging technologies in the news.

Just 5 or so years ago, I did not know what podcasting was, and definitely had never heard of the iPod. Before 2001 I had never heard of blogging.  Not having to use a downloaded client program like Microsoft Word to edit a document seemed like a fantasy in 2000.

I thought I would share with you just a small number of some exciting things happening in the world of technology – and how they may have an impact on how you work.

Memristers
A fourth fundamental circuit element in electrical engineering? What are the other three!? (they are resistors, inductors and capacitors for those who are counting). According to an article on Physorg.com, “This scientific advancement could make it possible to develop computer systems that have memories that do not forget, do not need to be booted up, consume far less power and associate information in a manner similar to that of the human brain.”  The potential is that it could replace RAM as we know it today, as well as hard drives as we know them today.  In theory they *should* be cheaper and more efficient.
Time frame: within 8 years

32-Core CPU
Most of us who work on computers have no idea how many “cores” our computer is running.  You may have heard the term “dual core” to describe newer computers coming out, and even 8-core computing (an example is the Mac Pro.)  What the core refers to is the processor inside a computer.  Dual combines 2 via an integrated circuit, 4 does the same, and so on.  What does having a 32-core desktop mean to you? For one, the number of programs you can run simultaneously.  Another example, creating and editing high-end video podcasts.
Time frame: within 6 years

USB 3.0
How many of you have used flash memory? Those little memory sticks we give out during classes or exhibits!? These devices use USB connectivity.  Many devices for the computer today can only be hooked up via a USB cable.  Examples: mice, keyboards, digital cameras, iPhones.  USB 2.0 is the current standard which means that it can run at speeds approaching 480 MB per second.  USB 3.0 promises output at 4.8 GB per second (roughly the equivalent of a movie on DVD each second).  This means faster charge times for your external devices and of course faster download of your photos and/or videos from digital cameras.
Time frame: anytime now

Wireless Recharging
Can you imagine a world where you don’t cringe every time you have to look under your computer desk?  The mass of wires can be very overwhelming.  Some of our daily devices are semi-wireless.  Electric shavers can be wireless, but they have to get juice from somewhere – and the charging base is what has to be plugged into the wall.  What if you could get power to a device without the use of any wires at all?  This idea obviously has huge potential in the library world, where we typically have a number of computers and other electrical devices (scanners, printers, etc.)  There will be undoubtedly huge obstacles to get this rolling but we’ll keep an eye on it.
TIme frame: within 10 years

What predictions have you heard about in regard to emerging technologies? What seemed fanciful a few years ago and now is a reality?

4 Responses to “Technology of the Future”

  1. Isaac Huffman Says:

    I always love those numbers they give with file transfer. USB 3.0 will not have 4.8 GBs per second. Right now most hard-drive can output at speeds between 40 to 100 MB/sec, depending on whether the data is being read from the inside or outside of the disk platter, the disk spin speed, and other factors. You’d have to output from like 49 separate high speed hard-drives and input onto at least 130 drives to get 4.8 GB transfer. USB 2.0 Claims 60 MB/sec or 480 Mbits/sec but it is more like 30 MB/sec in most cases because of drive speed, processing, and Ram. Right now SATA, or Serial ATA, has a theoretical maximum of 1200 Mbits/sec (150 MB/sec) but nothing transfers that fast. 4.8 GBs is just silly theoretical number that has no meaning to real computers….

    Nice post.

  2. Alison Aldrich Says:

    Great point, Isaac. Even with USB 3.0, there are plenty of other limiting factors when it comes to computer speed. I surfed around for a thorough, not-too-geeky explanation of these factors and found this, from Colby-Sawyer College: http://www.colby-sawyer.edu/information/technology/updates/slowcomputer.html

    Personally, I can’t wait for wireless recharging! I am constantly getting tangled up in the cords under my desk.

  3. Hope Leman Says:

    Apropos of the third point, I heard on the radio a few days ago that one of the products generating buzz at the Consumer Electronics Show 2009 is a device called PowerMat. It says on its site:

    “No more tangled mess of cords or searching for the right adaptor, simply place your enabled device on the Powermat to charge. Featuring a full range of wireless charging solutions for all your favorite devices, Powermat is compatible with iPhone, BlackBerry, MP3 players, cell phones, headsets, hand held electronic games, digital cameras, GPS units, and laptops…Powermat technology will revolutionize the way we charge.”

  4. Hope Leman Says:

    Oops–make that the fourth point. Duh, Hope!