Friday, January 23, 2015

Computers keep getting smaller...

Computers keep getting smaller...  The first truly general-purpose computer that I owned was one I built in about 1976, almost forty years ago.  It was a 4 MHz Z80 with a whopping 64kb of RAM and a dual 8" voice-coil floppy disk.  Woo hoo!  That thing weighed about 100 lbs (mainly because of the linear power supply's giant transformer), and was the size of an under-counter mini refrigerator.  It had a 64 x 16 character CRT and a clicky keyboard.  Over the years since then, my main working computer has gradually shrunk, until now I have a Mac Powerbook Pro, with an absurdly fast CPU, gobs of RAM, and a giant SSD – all in a package the size of a skinny notebook.  As I type this, I'm using an add-on clicky keyboard (das keyboard) and a wireless mouse. 

Where do computers go from here?  What do they look like when they get smaller?

Above right you see one group's vision: the computer shrinks to fit into the mouse.  Video is transmitted wirelessly to a monitor.  Everything else is in the mouse.  Now I'm not at all sure these folks have a winner of an idea, but it certainly is illustrative of the possibilities as compute hardware keeps shrinking.  I often marvel at the compute power I hold in my hand when using my iPhone; this really isn't much different than that.  It will be interesting to see the computer form ideas popping forth over the next few years...

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