Written on BA0048 flying from London to Seattle and dispatched to silicon.com via a free LAN service provided by my Seattle hotel
It may have been my proximity to Lapland and the trees and lights around Helsinki but it seems about the right time to write a letter. I'm not so sure about email when it comes to this sort of thing!
I've been a good boy all year, well mostly anyway! I completed all my projects and did all my reports. So I have written up my wish list for Christmas. I'm not expecting all of these things of course but one, or a fraction of one, would be really great.
- We have a bit of an energy problem right now and could do with some decent batteries. I don't suppose you have something with about 10 times the energy storage density of our current best of the best, do you? They would be a real boon for the ICT industry and of course for toys and consumer goods too.
- Next to storing energy our biggest problem is generating it without making a mess of the entire planet. How about some solar cells that are 90 per cent (or more!) efficient that don't entail the use of nasty metals and chemicals to produce? Mother nature seems to have figured it out a long time ago but frankly we are still struggling!
- Of course, it would be great if we could stop wasting energy in the first place! Any chance of chip sets and systems that power up when needed, and down when not? We could save giga-watts by only using resources when actually needed. Oh, and that includes the standby mode on all consumer goods.
- Please, please, can we have some software that gets smaller with every generation and upgrade? Bloatware and feature-death are eating more and more hardware capacity, and more energy come to think of it, without improving our effectiveness! I reckon that operating systems and applications that are really basic, where we get to add the frills if and when we need them would be a great advance and general benefit all round.
- I need some big buttons too. And I do mean BIG! Do you have a mobile phone with buttons I can press one at a time? I don't see the human species and our fingers getting smaller so please give me a BIG mobile phone!
- Everywhere I go there are screens, lots of screens and all back-lit at great expense. Almost without exception they are very poor in bright sunlight. Some front-lit, natural light screens would be very nice!
There's a lot more I could put on my list of course but I don't want to be greedy. And of course there is a lot that you could never deliver on, like the human condition for example, which seems to be constant and unchanged by almost anything.
On the other hand ICT is gradually spreading globalisation, and in turn is bringing peace and freedom to one nation after another. So you could help us make it all cheaper, more energy efficient and if you could help spread it around more liberally, who knows...
Peter Cochrane is an engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, futurist and consultant. He is the former CTO and head of research at BT, with a career in telecoms and IT spanning more than 40 years.