Growing Gadgetry and the Future

Just because you CAN, doesn’t mean it is a good idea. Just because it is POSSIBLE, doesn’t mean that every alternative is going to wither away. But what AM I babbling about?

Gadgets. Smaller, more powerful, everything in miniature.

Some people seem to think that just because a cell phone can now theoretically do most of the functions of a laptop, that laptops will die a slow death and become obsolete as people run around squinting and trying to poke their smart phones to get work done.

NOT! I like my laptop. It is fast to use, has a lovely large clear screen, and enough power and capacity that I need no other computer. A phone just can’t replace that.

I heard a “futurist” state the other day that the computer keyboard would just poof into the vapor one day as speech commands took over, and as other forms of input took over. I think he is premature. The only thing that could replace a keyboard for data input, as far as sheer speed is concerned, is direct thought transference, and even that is problematic, because you’d have to sort out WHICH thoughts the thing was supposed to act on! Keyboards are fast. You can type information in faster than you can speak it in and correct the errors from speech input. You can give commands with a mouse or keyboard or other input device much faster, and more accurately, than you can speak them. That will be the case for a very long time, and some of the rules will not change unless something better comes along. So far, no one is even close.

See, your hands don’t have to talk. You can train yourself to go directly from thought, to action through your hands. Hands were designed to do that, and a keyboard allows us to directly translate thought, into words on the page, without having to mess with our speech centers, or try to get the computer to get the command right when it is spoken. You don’t have to think about how to tell the computer what you need it to do (which is an extra step), you just DO it. If you have experience with training someone to use a computer, when you cannot touch the mouse yourself, you’d know what I mean.

New technologies are good. They bring us new possibilities. But they do not automatically mean that they will eliminate other technologies. The “futurist” said, “All things being equal, wireless is always better than wires”.

But all things are NOT equal. Far from it. And they may never be. Wireless involves security risks that hardwired will never have. And it never will be equal for speed or clarity either. In some applications, those things matter.

The real issue here is that this man was making claims about the future – as many people do – without really THINKING out the issues he was talking about.

The future will undoubtedly lose many things we consider essential today, and many things will be replaced. Some current trends will continue, others have reached their practical end. Much of it we can’t know until we get there.

UPDATE: Five years after writing this post, I finally got my first smartphone. I was right. It can’t even come close to replacing the functionality of my laptop, in all the essential ways for online use. It is a convenience when I do not have my laptop, but still very much a hassle to have to type ANYTHING.

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