Markos Moulitsas is the founder and publisher of DailyKos, the world’s largest political blog. He travels quite a bit and is dependent on his laptop and the internet. So I read his first experience with the iPad with a great deal of interest. Go read it (like they need the traffic; on a quiet Sunday night they are running 35,000 visits an hour!). Bottom line: overwhelmingly positive for someone who has a few, routine but critical functions handled by email and Microsoft Office level programs. I’ve already written about my own plans to get one later in the year, after the kinks are worked out. It cost a tenth what my original Apple II+ costs in 1981 dollars but has 333,000 times as much memory, a color screen and is connected to the internet. Technology has obviously made strides in 30 years. How long can this last? Judging from an article in Nature this week, a long time. I’m not a solid state physicist, so I’ll go with the New York Times description of the paper:
The devices, known as memristors, or memory resistors, were conceived in 1971 by Leon O. Chua, an electrical engineer at the University of California, Berkeley, but they were not put into effect until 2008 at the H.P. lab here.
They are simpler than today?s semiconducting transistors, can store information even in the absence of an electrical current and, according to a report in Nature, can be used for both data processing and storage applications.
The devices, known as memristors, or memory resistors, were conceived in 1971 by Leon O. Chua, an electrical engineer at the University of California, Berkeley, but they were not put into effect until 2008 at the H.P. lab here. (John Markoff, New York Times)
So I might get an iPad, but it’s just a temporary device, because if this stuff comes along in as short as a 3 year window as HP is predicting I can’t even imagine what things will look like, even in the very near future. We were approaching some size barriers for current technologies and all of a sudden they are gone. Grid computing is achieving unparalleled power by harnessing the simultaneous workings of computers distributed over the internet. What if we could have the same power on our desktop?
Probably the first fruits wouldn’t be in computation, though, high density and very fast storage for portable devices like the iPad. That’s a reasonable guess but there will likely be applications and developments that are not just unforeseen but perhaps even unimaginable at this moment. The iPad is a kind of computing device that few people — if anyone — imagined in 1981 when I bought my first personal computer. Yes, people talked about very powerful personal computers, but the kind of interaction between people and machine and between people using the machines was not appreciated, nor do I think, could have been. I feel confident in predicting that in 10 years the iPad will seem quaint and primitive. But that’s all I feel confident in predicting.
I don’t think most people are aware of the dramatic revolution we are living through, comparable in significance to the invention of the printing press in 1450. It will be for a future historian to make sense of it. I wonder in what form that judgment will be communicated to others. Meanwhile I’ll still get an iPad, even knowing I’ll be replacing it with something else in 3 to 5 years.
Quite likely something containing a stack of memristors.