It’s the Age of the Microchip
Computers Are Expanding as They Shrink
Jack Smith
At the beginning of this century, the Wright Brothers made history by flying for 120 feet at 30 mph.

     In December, we reported on plans for a plane that will travel nearly 7,000 mph and go anywhere on the globe in less than two hours. Imagine where we will be in another 100 years. We are in the throes of a technological revolution that is moving us into the future with increasing speed, a revolution that today is being driven by the microchip — the computer. 
     To visualize the complexity — and power — of the computer chip, imagine something the size of Manhattan. Every street and alley and elevator shaft; the plumbing, wiring and phone lines in every building and apartment. Imagine this in 3-D, with multistory structures. Then, think of shrinking all of it to the size of a postage stamp. That is the modern computer chip. 
     Today, these chips are leaving the computer and being embedded in everything around us, networked together and interactive. 

Environment Getting Smarter
     “You have smart walls, smart desks, smart phones. And suddenly you end up in an environment in which you have literally hundreds of computers that are all working together to create kind of a new smart environment for you to work in,” says John Seeley-Brown of Xerox. 
     Scientists are even putting computer chips in chalkboards, a breakthrough that lets teachers and students interact in ways they never could before. 
     With things like voice activation, fewer buttons to push and no complex programs to master, technology in the future, say scientists, will be much easier to use. 
     “It starts to remove the annoyance, to say the least, of what is now almost a cacophony of devices and gadgets, most of which don’t work, most of which have functions beyond your belief or ability to use them,” says Nicolas Negroponte of the MIT Media Lab. 
     And technology, in the future, will touch every facet of our lives. With the Internet, students will be able to access the same supercomputing power now found only in government weapons labs. Computer chips, for the first time, are being designed to augment the eye and other parts of the human body. 
     “The computer will be part of your clothing and your jewelry. If you want to have a little video teleconference, you really could call it up on your watch, or on a display that just projects directly on to your eyeglasses without you having to don some special contraption,” says MIT Professor Rosalind Picard. 
     A future in which the power of the microchip will remake our world in ways we cannot even imagine. 

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