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Why digital machines?

By xuriwan ·
New to this forum and impressed by its wider perspective than elsewhere, I thought the following might be of interest:

Since 1995 innovation in technology has been stagnant, replaced by efforts to improve and replicate within the boundaries of what already existed. This has produced a complacent industry bloated with clones (and moans) with no sign of the mid-1980's enthusiasm to use computerisation to advance our civilisation for the benefit of Society as a whole. How come the promising revolution got washed away in favour of pursuit of the frivolous?

I think the problem is that IT is currently seen as an end in itself, whereas it is a utility something like electricity. Imagine if electrical innovation had been confined to producing more and more power with no recognition of its application beyond various forms of lighting. Today, for most, office suites are doshed out to help with the work; isn't it time to consider the kind of cross industry collaboration that resulted in the washing machine?

I see machines in the workplace that speed up communications but it seems required human time and effort has not been reduced. Are there machines that help with this? I have not found one, but I find appealing the idea of IT people bursting out of their bubble and joint venturing with practitioners to make specialist digital machines for diverse non-creative activities.

PS I use the term "digital machine" to mean an assembly of word and code components that carry out tasks (e.g. finding and displaying pertinent collections of product options) to support human creativity. Different components are selected to assemble specific machines for specific tasks. I accept that the term "digital" is often used to describe a mechanical machine with digital controls, so I will attempt to find another term - any suggestions welcome.

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Grow up!

by Dr Dij In reply to What a shame

Sorry, but this is a discussion forum... People are free to express their vision. Yours was a good start but didn't seem real clear to me so I may have been slightly off your topic but I tried to add something.

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Non confrontational

by xuriwan In reply to Grow up!


Actually I wanted to reply to your comment about the size of PCs as I have been thinking about this and interfaces generally for some time.

It seems to be a good start for a branch of the main discussion; I have added some thoughts to Mark's reply to try and maintain the logic of the tree and keep from disappearing over the right margin.

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by Dr Dij In reply to Non confrontational

I'd almost wanted to start a company at some point and make the more modular PCs. Of course as you said this is a different topic:
1) how to make machines better / more functional / smaller / modular (tool maker - my twist on topic)
2) what future directions for whatever computer hardware we are using (tool user - seems like this was your original topic)
and given that there will always be faster / better / lower power hardware coming along, it is actually more interesting to talk about applications that are possible given the current /future hardware limit to practical processing power.

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Size of PC

by M_a_r_k In reply to breathless

"That's how big PC's should be. slightly bigger than a cd player. add more horsepower?"

Dr. Dij, some thoughts your desire to shrink the PC...
Why would you want such a small PC? Would you use it any differently than you use a laptop now? They could be made much smaller but that will make them cost much more. Also, all that computing horsepower dissipates a lot of heat. Have you seen the size of the heatsink in your PC? Laptops aren't as powerful as desktops for technical reasons. Do you also want to use a micro-sized keyboard and monitor? PDAs and mobile phones are starting to incorporate more sophisticated gadgetry in them. The human engineering factors regarding size and ease of use are hard to overcome.

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I want a really large..

by Dr Dij In reply to Size of PC

I've got 3 PCs at home and they take up too much space (space the final frontier...) They were able to shrink the monitor by fundamental technology change to LCD and Plasma..

Ok, my 3 old type monitors also take up alot of space. My gripe is that a mid or full size tower case is mostly wasted space (air). the PS's should be sept like laptops, 1st reduction of space and heat.

And they should reduce the heat produced somehow, either by switching to smaller lithography, etc.

Didn't say would be immediately done or easy. But we're reducing lithography every year.

Suppose they goto smaller ships in a multiprocessor architecture. Then each one would put out maybe 5 watts instead of 40 by design.. and be spread out a bit more. They did it with laptops so the technology is there..

Maybe with ultra-miniturization it would be size of ipod, etc. but with plug in connectors for monitors, keyboards, peripherals if you wanted. possibly even without 'docking bay' as some new laptops are without need for these..

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Good ideas for someday

by M_a_r_k In reply to I want a really large..

Dr. Dij, all of that makes sense technically. Maybe it is all possible now. It comes down to economics. When the market is ready for something like what you're looking for, it will happen. For now, it seems the buying public (individuals and businesses) are satisfied with boxy computers or laptops and the processing power is more than adequate for everyday home and office tasks.

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by Dr Dij In reply to Good ideas for someday

then if I had a company to make these I'd have to make them sexy / futuristic, so that the average tech savy person would HAVE TO have these, just like they want humongous plasma screens today.. :)

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That is right

by M_a_r_k In reply to Sexy

A lot of it hinges on advertising and marketing. At least to start. Dream up a glitzy marketing campaign and you will generate initial interest. But the buying public is smarter than everyone thinks. If the product is useless (doesn't fill a need (entertaimnent, accomplish something, etc)) then your product won't go anywhere.

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Hardware and interfaces

by xuriwan In reply to Size of PC

I have no dogmatic views about hardware and interfaces, but have thought about some design principles, which include:

Common automated systems are all based on the method of collecting and reacting to user input (interfacing human and machine). In shops barcodes on physical products + human effort initiate the input, ATMs rely on card, keyboard and touch screen; mass transit ticketing on tickets ... and so on. This indicates to me that it is contrary to try and fit systems to suit predetermined hardware. I reckon existing hardware is sufficient, but the logic of selecting hardware to suit system design should encourage more creative, pertinent and effective interface designs.

Digitising paper-based methods of working - writing, tabulating, drawing - is either elitist or just greedy and a prime cause of the digital divide. "Feed the masses with gruel, they know no

All displays should be generated to satisfy users with shirt pocket machines, those who prefer to display their endeavours on the side of a building and those who want both at the same time.

Mark, you wrote elsewhere: "When the market is ready for something like what you're looking for, it will happen." This is true, but the market first needs to know what it is. This puts a great responsibility on web developers (both technologists and practitioners) who care about these things to explore and explain.

Where better than here?

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Developing a market for new gadgets

by M_a_r_k In reply to Hardware and interfaces

"'When the market is ready for something like what you're looking for, it will happen.' This is true, but the market first needs to know what it is. This puts a great responsibility on web developers (both technologists and practitioners) who care about these things to explore and explain."

I sometimes wonder where new products come from and who thinks them up. Most "new" products are evolutionary. A tweak here or there to an existing product to fit it to a different niche or add functionality. Look at technically revolutionary products in our past. Have any had financial success in their revolutionary stage? They seem to get put in a corner until the market catches up to them. By that time they don't look so revolutionary any more. Remember the Apple Newton? Good idea but too early. We pretty much have the same thing now in PDAs and tablet PCs. I suppose an argument and counter argument could be made for many new tech gadgets on whether or not they are evolutionary or revolutionary. Was the Internet browser revolutionary? Maybe so but I think not. It just gave us a new way to access distributed information.

I guess the point of all this is that you can't force feed something new and very different into the buying public's hands. A new product typically has a LOT of market feasibility studies and research into buyers' needs and wants. Quite often new products still fail. You need to recoup your investment and then make a profit on the revenue generated from sales. Otherwise you go broke.

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