Fast forward: your PC over the next 50 years

5. Your display will be any object
Companies such as HP and Philips have shown prototypes for flexible displays, but by 2059 they will be in mass production and a desktop LCD will be a distant memory. Yet, beyond the flexible or fold-up display, a display will not even be a physical object.

For example, the Texas Instruments Pico technology will expand beyond a proof-of-concept for cell phones and portable projectors (such as the Optoma PK-101) and work with any device. The projection will be brighter and in HD, and work on any surface, yet small enough to be in a laptop or UMPC.

6. Storage will be in data centres
This one is perhaps the most controversial – after all, we like our privacy, which means we like our data local. Yet, we really have no idea how much storage the coming wave of digital storage will require. Today, we buy movies on Blu-Ray discs and stream maybe a couple of flicks from In the future, optical media will die a painful death – including all CD and high-def formats.

The reason: as broadband speeds go beyond 100Mbps, there's just no reason to own physical discs. Yet, we need a place to put not just one or two movies, but hundreds or even thousands of them. Companies such as Akamai are building the backbone for this concept already, where the "last mile" feed is incredibly fast between your home and a remote data centre. (And, by the way, it will probably be owned by Google.)

7. Speech will actually become useful
Companies such as TellMe, Nuance, Microsoft and Google are working on the speech-to-text and translation engines required to make ubiquitous speech control a reality. Today, a limited set of commands on a car such as the Ford Focus means less processing in data centres to understand what the driver wants. Each year, speech companies accumulate more and more data and understand more speech patterns, tweaking algorithms and building up a dictionary of terms.

By 2059, these libraries will contain any utterance, in any language. Already, products such as Dragon 10 works better than they did just a few years ago, and eventually the PC will understand anything you say.

8. Touch technology will be pervasive
Today, touch is a buzzword and a gee-whiz tech for CNN election results. Yet, more physical interaction with a screen – where objects use more physics and react to other objects – is coming this year or next. In 50 years, we won't understand why anyone except engineers and video production artists are using a mouse, and even then those fields will migrate to stylus or trackball devices.

Touch is an important milestone because the computer will change – there will be one in your car, on a bathroom mirror, in a hallway and one your kitchen table. No one wants a mouse dangling in every corner of the house.

9. Being a geek won't matter
It's interesting to think that there is still a separation from the techie elite and the everyday consumer. In 50 years, this divide will not exist. Everyone will understand and use technology as second-nature, paper will be almost quaint, and social networking won't just be a website or a service, it will the primary mode of communication. Today, we laud the heroes such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Tomorrow, everyone will be just as techie as the most technical among us.


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John Brandon

John Brandon has covered gadgets and cars for the past 12 years having published over 12,000 articles and tested nearly 8,000 products. He's nothing if not prolific. Before starting his writing career, he led an Information Design practice at a large consumer electronics retailer in the US. His hobbies include deep sea exploration, complaining about the weather, and engineering a vast multiverse conspiracy.