Computers In A Few Years

I am waiting anxiously for the day when the new computer will be announced within a few years. The main change? I’d like to see the keyboard and the mouse completely gone. I think their time has come. The latest Apple iPhone would be a good prototype for the user interface.

Grass Typewriter by ~supertim
Grass Typewriter by ~supertim

First, keyboards have been around for over a century. However, in that time, we have seen (I’m sorry to say) little to no evolution. It is time for these monsters to be replaced by softer alternatives. Replace the keyboard with a software keyboard that shows up when needed just as it does on the iPhone. Improve the keyboard so that it’s not just a rectangular alignment of keys (as in the case of the iPhone) but rather an automatically adjusting set of circular keys that appear based on a person’s typing stile and hand size and the placement of the screen. I’ve learned to type on my own. It would be nice if the keyboard would adjust to minimize strain on my hands based on the way I type. Touch screens have become very advanced and there is no reason why the keyboard should be separate from the screen any longer given most actions are carried out via the mouse today. I’m describing a tablet computer of some sort except without a stylus. When placed on a table keys would be placed, in a certain way. When upright, hanging on a wall, in a different way. Furthermore, with technologies to guess the word being typed, I’m sure typing would become many times faster.

Second, computer mouse should become a historical artifact. Its precision pixel pointing features are no longer critical in a world where screens can be as large as needed and there is little harm on eyes from close proximity to the LCD screen. Software needs to be designed for the new system to work completely without the mouse allowing hand gestures to control all operations that a mouse would perform. I guess I’m describing the Star Trek computers but we’re close to seeing these become reality. There is no reason why the screen couldn’t adjust completely to expect the actions that a user would want to perform at any given time. The piano application would show piano keys.

Third, the screens should be made to sense the existence of other screens so systems with dual monitors would be as easy as plugging a monitor into the power outlet and placing it next to an existing screen. Adding any number of monitors would simply expand the computer display area for large scale work tables or applications requiring the display of massive amounts of information.

Finally, these tablets need to be modular requiring only a power source with all inter-device communications handled via wireless networking (WiFi) or Bluetooth. So, a tablet in our living room wall would have the same functionality as another tablet in a home office. A similar tablet would be available in the car. In all these cases the only difference would be the screen size. The home entertainment system would be replaced with one of these. The TV in the bedroom would be replaced with a larger sized model, the iPhone, iPod and work PC with others of varying sizes. The dashboard on the computer would be yet another version.

I have seen every component of this system already but haven’t seen the overall system coming together yet. Microsoft, Apple, Google, HP, Dell and others could create a new revolution in computer technology by bringing together already existing components with the vision described above. The computer user interfaces of today (Windows, Mac, Linux…) would all appear ancient and difficult to use.

The applications of the touch based tablet with the smooth user interface of the future are simply endless. Instead of flying TVs around, I’m sure JetBlue would switch to flying tablet computers around. Disk space you ask? There is no reason why disks couldn’t be sold on subscription basis held in many redundant data centers around the globe. Cloud computing is not anything new. Why not bring it all together? Any thoughts?

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