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
“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.