Specified as a portable device that docks in your work (to a big-ass table) and in your home (“so your house becomes a smart operating system”), the main notable feature of the Computer is that it’s built on optoelectronics, which obviously didn’t really come to pass. Their predictions are otherwise really far more miss than hit.
You’ll communicate with the PC primarily with your voice, putting it truly at your beck and call.
Bill Gates called. He wanted his perpetually wrong prediction back.
by plugging our computer into an office desk, its top becomes a gigantic computer screen—an interactive photonic display. You won’t need a keyboard because files can be opened and closed simply by touching and dragging with your finger. And for those throwbacks who must have a keyboard, we’ve supplied that as well. A virtual keyboard can be momentarily created on the tabletop, only to disappear when no longer needed. Now you see it, now you don’t.
Well, my iPhone gets by with a virtual keyboard, but that’s going to have to be filed under “mostly wrong”. Unless you know someone who has actually used Microsoft’s Big Ass Table.
The disk will be holographic and will somewhat resemble a CD-ROM or DVD. That is, it will be a spinning, transparent plastic platter with a writing laser on one side and reading laser on the other, and it will hold an astounding terabyte (1 trillion bytes) of data, just a tad more than we get today—1,000 times more, to be exact.
Pretty much spot on for capacity but entirely wrong on tech; hard drives still use magnetic platters, just as they have for the last 30 years.
With such capacity, you’ll be able to store every ounce of information about your life. But beware. If your computer is stolen or destroyed, you might actually start wondering who you are.
You could take backups? Anyway, no mention of digital movies, music, or 12MP RAW files, together making sure that a terabyte still feels far from voluminous.
With communication between components no longer bottlenecked by electronic transmission, we can probably push the [CPU] clock rate to 100 gigahertz, 100 times faster than what’s available now
Oh dear. This is where the opto-electronics wishful thinking really bites. As is:
A long, sticklike lithium battery, bent into a doughnut and installed in the periphery of the computer, will run it for a couple of weeks
More like a few hours? Oh well.
Size does matter in our 2010 computer screen. It will either be very large, literally the desk top of your desktop, or very small, a monocle you hold up to your eye. … Colors will be vivid and images precise (think plasma displays). In fact, today’s concept of “resolution” will be largely obsolete. Get ready for pay-per-view Webcasts.
Screens have got larger and flatter, but not that much. I also don’t see any display monocles (although that would be interesting, if somewhat steampunk). As for “pay-per-view Webcasts”, well, we all know how that one ended up.
All in all, one has to file this under “failed future”. They’d have done better to straight-line Moore’s Law, even though that would have failed to predict the multi-core CPUs.
Last week I posted about how all the phones I care about were designed in the United States, rather than Europe, Japan or Korea. They’re also not really phones, but computers. They have one other thing in common- they all run Unix.
This really is shocking if you were around in the 1980s, or even the early ’90s, but the inexorable progress of Moore’s Law - combined with clever stripping of the worst bits of the open source Linux GUI, or the most demanding parts of Mac OS X - means that the Android and Pre platforms share with the iPhone a Unix core.
Of course, unlike the dreams of the ultimately failed OpenMoko initiative, all of these devices are more or less locked down. Sure, you can download source for the first two, but until recently neither offered a native code SDK. (Unsurprisingly Apple’s device is even less open.) Nonetheless, deep in the guts of my phone - and probably yours - is an OS written forty years ago for a minicomputer. What a strange industry.
Richard Rutter, commenting on the Best Daily Mail poll ever, one of Simon Willison’s images on Flickr, and the fact the Mail withdrew a gamed online poll.
Well, it now looks like there is an analogue at the Guardian; their page asking “is it time to return the Parthenon Marbles” is currently running 95% in favour. I also note it’s “most read” on the site, and a quick use of bit.ly finds posts like this on Twitter.
I doubt the Guardian will take this down, but I would love to know if the data is recorded with a guess as the location of a voter, whether there’s evidence of a surge of Greek (and other) voters visiting the poll and leaving the site, and the answer to similar questions. (I realise that there are good reasons we can’t have such data, but it can’t hurt to wonder.)
Two last points: firstly, the URL has the phrase “Elgin marbles” while the page’s title uses “Parthenon Marbles”. As names matter, this is an interesting disparity. Secondly, when I tried to post this as a comment on Flickr, it labelled one of the URLs I’ve referred to as “used for abuse”. Hmmm.
(A rabbit hole is an area where I start looking at a single page, and then all of a sudden I’m reading chunks of Wikipedia, or considering more and more expensive and featureful alternatives. I figure that if I’ve gone down one, I should save you the hassle of doing so, by summarising the trip.)
Denmark has a lot of bridges. This really shouldn’t be surprising; it is, after all, a nation of islands, and it makes sense that they want to join them up. Here are five bridges (technically, schemes, since two are bridge/tunnel hybrids; one is still being planned) that are important connections, which between them join Scandinavia to western Europe without the need for ferries. It’s of note that, unlike most of Britain’s estuarial suspension spans, these projects tend to carry both road and rail traffic.
Nye Lillebæltsbro, opened in 1970 to replace the old Little Belt Bridge (built 1929-1935), joins the Jutland peninsula (which has a land border with Germany) to the island of Fyn. A rather stubby suspension bridge, it’s probably the least charming of the structures listed here, but still, it’s an important part of the United Nations E 20 route.
The Farøbroerne (Farø Bridges), opened in 1985, join Falster and Zealand, and again replace an older bridge, the Storstrømsbroen (which connects the islands slightly further west, has a documentary devoted to it, and dates from a similar period to the old Little Belt Bridge, 1933-1937). The name comes from the small, almost uninhabited Farø Island that is the midpoint, splitting the crossing into two bridges. The northernmost is quite dull, but the southern cable-stayed span has graceful, diamond-shaped pylons surrounding the deck. (These bridges are the exception to the rule mentioned above, carrying only road traffic; rail traffic still passes over the Storstrømsbroen.)
If there’s one bridge people outside Denmark have heard of, it’s likely to be Storebæltsforbindelsen, the Great Belt Link. This project would have briefly had the longest suspension span in the world, had it not been delayed, allowing the Akashi-Kaikyō Bridge, completed two months sooner, to take the record. (It will fall to third when surpassed by a bridge under construction in China.) In addition to this span, there are two long approaches, a tunnel, and a smaller bridge from an intermediate small island. Opened in 1998, this linked Zealand to Fyn, and hence Jutland (via the Nye Lillebæltsbro mentioned earlier), completing a network that linked together the most important Danish islands with the European mainland.
In July 2000, Øresundsbron was opened, linking Zealand to the Swedish city of Malmö on the Scandinavian peninsula. Whereas the previous three projects were internal, this is the longest international crossing in the world, and makes it possible to travel from Sweden, through Denmark, to Germany. (All three are signatories of the Schengen agreements, so these crossings involve no passport controls.) Øresundsbron carries UN route E20, and like the Great Belt Link, combines a bridge (cable-stayed, with a 490m span) with the Drogdentunnelen, just over 4 kilometres long. The two sections are joined on an artificial bridge, Peberholm.
That’s not all, though. While these connections theoretically link Germany and Denmark, the detour through Jutland is time-consuming, so daytime trains from Hamburg to København cross the Femern Belt on a ferry. Unsurprisingly, there is a scheme underway to replace this with a bridge. The Femern Bælt-forbindelsen is scheduled for completion in 2018, and will complete a more direct link to the German mainland (via the Fehmarn Sound Bridge inside Germany itself). The plan currently proposes three cable-stayed spans of 724m, carrying four road lanes and two railway tracks. The plan saw off opposition from those who suggested an alternative from Gesder to Rostock, somewhat to the east, who argued that the Hamburg alignment was based on Cold War thinking. Unfortunately, it’s also a much longer crossing (40km rather than 18km), so despite some political support, the Fehmarn Belt scheme triumphed. The German parliament has just approved the bridge, and construction should start this year.
(This concludes the first rabbit hole.)
Yesterday evening, thanks to tips from Michael (who posted photos from Thursday promptly) and Anna (who mentioned it on Twitter), I trundled across to the east of the city for two very different performances as part of the Greenwich + Docklands International Festival.
Up by the new planetarium at the Royal Observatory, there was Sputnik, a short, intimate, somewhat charming solo dance/performance piece, with Claire Cunningham as a slightly steampunk character exploring a strange machine. As I’ve said, it wasn’t a long performance (maybe 20 minutes long), and it was on a very human scale; the entire machine was only a few metres across. Definitely well worth the climb up the hill, even without the glorious view of sunset behind the City I was able to catch afterwards.
Following that, I headed back under the Thames to Millwall Dock for Fous de Bassin, one of those spectaculars that French theatre companies seem so good at. This was on a much different scale to Sputnik; it lasted for 45 minutes and had a (visible) cast of about a dozen, including heaven knows how many technicians. Staged on water, with a variety of boats and, well, vehicles, lit with electricity, fire, and finally fireworks, this really was a massive event, yet I didn’t enjoy it as much.
Some of that is niggles due to the scale; there were a thousand people squeezed in to the dock to watch, mainly from concrete-hard lawns, and I was initially distracted by people describing what they were seeing to their friends. It was also hard to see what was going on.
Yet there’s also a structural problem; it felt like there was an attempt at narrative, or perhaps, more problematically, three or four narratives. What did the chap getting out of the car have to do with the woman up the tree? What did the jousting signify? Was there meant to be something joining these threads, or were we just meant to be gawping? Well, probably just being dazzled, yet it still left me feeling as if I’d missed the point somehow.
Compared to that, Sputnik managed (because, perhaps, of its smallness of scale) to effectively convey a (small) narrative very nicely indeed, with none of the bombast. Still, since both performances were free, and I got something out of both, I really shouldn’t complain too much. Unfortunately, I can’t recommend either, not because I don’t want to, but because both concluded yesterday. However, Handel’s Water Music is being performed for a final time tonight at the National Maritime Museum, and there are a series of small dance and performance events in the are throughout today and tomorrow. In fact, I need to pack up and head off for some now.