‘Scientists from the RAND Corporation have created this model to illustrate how a “home computer” could look in the year 2004. However, the needed technology will not be economically feasible for the average home. Also the scientists readily admit that the computer will require not yet invented technology to actually work, but 50 years from now scientific progress is expected to solve these problems. With teletype interface and the Fortran language, the computer will be easy to use.’ [Popular Mechanics Magazine, 1954]
The year 2004 has come and gone. Where’s my steering wheel?! At least we have nutritional meals down to pocket-size packets if not in pill form, and monorail development is on the rise again.Virgin is on the good foot, grav-boots and all, for commercial space travel some time soon. Sub-stratosphere,Paul Moller and his team keep working on getting their sexy sky cars into your garage. I keep checking my Travel Editor’s inbox for a review from someone who’s had a test drive but I won’t hold my breath.
On the subject of breath, smoke ‘em if you got ‘em because it doesn’t say anywhere in the latest couple rounds of research from our old friends at Randwhat plans, if any, we should all be making for the kind of Jetsons-style get-ups that could allow us a steady supply of oxygen during our daily lives. Would I be able to remove the fishbowl to comb my hair or would nanobots comb it for me? I’m glad I don’t have to worry about it for now.
In our more immediate future, the prospect of discrete wearable computersmay be improved by such recent breakthroughs as those of a lab in Palo Alto called Nanosolar. I used to think the short-lived proliferation of paper suits and skirts the ‘Sixties enjoyed must have been pretty neat. Now I’m imagining changeable neckties and shirt cuffs made of solar paper used to power my mohair entertainment center.
I went and met with the company’s president yesterday and he said the lightweight nature of their major power supply material will be applied to huge rooftops rather than little wristwatches and such. However, he assured me there are other companies working on the so-called ‘embedded’ market of laptop batteries and the like.
I still have my heart set on an invisible desktop-level system one would be free to move about in. We are already seeing signs of solutions to the principal interface design challenges of discrete wearable computing. One wants to see what one is doing while one controls one’s devices. An array of experimental developments move the optical part on top closer to something akin to a pair of Ray-bans, while developments at Apple may be paving the way to a better connection with the hands below. The popularity of the iPod has established our familiarity with a circular controller. I was wondering about the steering wheel and there it is! The latest, though it offers less control — shuffle only — has a controller the size of a jacket button. Do you see where I’m going with this idea? Give that little button the added dimension of command a rotating ring affords and you’ve got your James Bond suit.
Unfortunately, the same factor contributing to the likelihood of a need to wear fishbowls on our heads might interfere with important developments in bespoke CPU’s and that is the increasing scarcity of water. I might worry about electrocution if the circuits in my stitches have to share space with tiny tubes carrying recycled H2O. Fortunately, fashion is a fast-moving game and there may be no interference there at all, depending on how quickly or slowly the powers that be manage to destroy the delicate balance of Nature. Style is what’s important after all, and will probably win that race.
On the subject of water combined with style, the movie to see, if you haven’t already, is The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, if only for the soundtrack. If you have already seen it, see it again, if only for the astounding special effects wizardry provided by animation director Henry Selick. It’ll make you wish you could breathe underwater. Beyond the sea, but still on the silver screen, meanwhile, we have Kevin Spacey’s creative telling of the story of performer Bobby Darrin. Sadly, he is no more believable in the part than is another dedicated actor in another biopic, the new Scorsese picture. Leo DiCaprio hasn’t a pin on Howard Hughes. At least the focus on the all-around amazing pioneer is mainly on his innovations in the field of aviation, but I might have preferred to see two hours of the H-1 Racer in action. One thing we do learn from the film, in any case, is that production on the Hercules was stalled by Hughes’ indecision on the aircraft’s steering wheel so, there, you see, the steering wheel is important.
© Jonathan Ogilvy 2005 – 2012 [Published 31 January 2005]
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