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Personal Handheld Computers 500 years from now.

  1. Apr 11, 2012 #1
    I'm working on a science fiction novel about a prosecutor in the future.
    He's assigned to different planets and they have an office system and he
    has a personal handheld device of some type.
    I need some help describing what this would be like in the future.
    I'm sure we're past Blackberries and Droids with some AI thrown in.
    Thanks for assisting a scientifically challenged lawyer...
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 11, 2012 #2


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    Considering I don't think many people saw things like the iPad or current generation smartphones ever happening even 10 years ago, it would be silly to try to say what things will look like 500 years from now with any certainty.

    One thing I would say is that as time goes on, it's not going to be about what a computer will look like in 500 years that will be interesting, but where computers will be in 500 years. Maybe your roof will be computerized or there will be computers built into your bicycle. Maybe sheets of paper will be computerized somehow (think e-inks). Now-a-days, hobbyists can control some of the most ridiculous things using computers that you'd never expect.
  4. Apr 11, 2012 #3
    I agree 500 years is a long time to guess. I bet even the Star Trek Tricorder capabilities will seem silly by then.
  5. Apr 11, 2012 #4
    Handhelds? If we still need to use our hands to access most of our devices in 2512, I'll be very surprised (though probably already dead).
  6. Apr 11, 2012 #5


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    My guess is there won't be anything hend-held in 500 years, it will be implants which link to your brain diretly.
  7. Apr 12, 2012 #6
    Thank you to everyone for giving me some ideas. It's much appreciated!
  8. Apr 13, 2012 #7
  9. Apr 13, 2012 #8
    And then there's the MS version:
  10. Apr 13, 2012 #9


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  11. Apr 14, 2012 #10


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    ROFL, that was the first thing I saw when I started to browse PF which is a part of my morning routine. It already made my day.
  12. Apr 14, 2012 #11
  13. Apr 16, 2012 #12


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    As others have pointed out 500 years is far to long to have any meaningful speculation (after all imagine trying to predict current computer use 50 years ago). But here's a few ideas that might be helpful to you:
    Cloud computing - do people need to carry around a computer or can they just use any interface to access data and outsource computation to computers elsewhere? IIRC bandwidth over air could be pushed up to as high as 1-2TBps, with that there should be pretty much no latency no matter what you are doing.

    Natural language user interface - rather than awkward keyboards and commands why not simply talk to computers as we do people and have them understand and respond.

    Intelligent personal assistant - imagine Siri 2.0+++. Not necessarily an artificial conscious being but software sophisticated enough to respond intelligently to instructions and innovate to carry out tasks. E.g. "Bring me up a list of murders in the last 100 years that have involved the same method and see if any of the evidence from those cases matches with this one.

    Augmented reality - as google show above. Instead of boxy computers some glasses/contact lenses that take command via eye motion, voice and gesture could be used.

    Internet of things - imagine if computers and interfaces were placed into every everyday object. Instead of carrying and using a phone/laptop you could talk to the nearest table and get it to display your emails or enquire directions from the pavement or order take away from wall paper or...

    Brain computer interface - more speculative than the others but conceivably your characters could have chips interfaced with their brains that allow them to control them by thought. This has a long history of use in SF that is very varied.

    That's all for now :smile:
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2012
  14. Apr 16, 2012 #13
    That sounds like quite a bit (no pun intended). Not saying I don't believe you, but can you cite any sources that support this view?
  15. Apr 16, 2012 #14


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    Not really, I was told it by a friend who works for BT as an engineer. I should have written AFAIK rather than IIRC as it would have made more sense I suppose in that context. Hopefully someone who knows about the subject could comment as I'm be interested in it also:smile:

    To the OP one last bit of advice would be that whatever you choose to write good SF you should make sure that your plot devices are explored in how they affect society i.e. their use is logical and consistent. For example if you write into the setting that people wore augmented reality devices that stored their data remotely you should probably consider the implications of widespread lifelogging (I use this as an example because SF author Charles Stross has addressed this in an excellent essay regarding how society is influenced by technology). Good science fiction IMO should make the plot fit the technology (i.e. "what would a world look like with technology X?") rather than the technology fit the plot (i.e. "my character's mode of transport needs to reflect the future hence it will be X").
  16. Apr 16, 2012 #15
    I don't think there will be any handheld computers 500 years from now as mankind, at least the modern civilization that we have now, will not exist. People won't even be able to find the rare earth metals required to make such devices except for in land fills.
  17. Apr 16, 2012 #16
    I think 10-20 years from now, most homes won't even have a PC anymore and laptops will certainly be outdated. If you have a high tech gaming console and tablet computer, then why would you need a laptop or PC?

    10 years ago there were no smartphones, now Google is announcing augmented reality glasses.

    A while ago I wrote an article on transhumanism and consciousness to make the case that consciousness is not something intrinsically human or biological. Thinking about it has been a lot of fun, you could check it out.

    And if I have to be completely fair I really doubt whether humanity is still around in 50 or 100 years. Is that a bad thing? I don't know, but it's not as we are gone extinct. Nobody is worried about being dead in a century when he sees his own kids growing up, so maybe we could view our successors as our 'spiritual' children. I think the future is completely unpredictable 50 years from now, even more than it was 50 years ago.

    If you assume the world to be static, then you make an awful mistake, but when you assume the world to be completely dynamic, then there's nothing you can motivate. That's why you have to assume a semi-static world and live in the now.

    The fancy tech SciFi movies and novels are all fun, but the stories which leave a lasting impression are those which focus less on the high tech stuff and more one the implications of how our socio-technological landscape is changing and how far prepared we are to carry those changes. A good example of such a story is the movie Gattaca.
  18. Apr 17, 2012 #17
    Ok, how much are you willing to bet on that? :wink:
  19. Apr 17, 2012 #18
    Maybe it'll take a little longer, so I'm not willing to bet on that.
  20. Apr 17, 2012 #19


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    why do some people think portable computers and replace desktops?

    laptops and tablets can never catch up to the screen size and computing power (especially in terms of gaming) of desktops
  21. Apr 17, 2012 #20
    Portable computers and gaming consoles will replace desktops. I don't see any point in desktop computers when you can do office work on a tablet and play games on your television.
  22. Apr 17, 2012 #21


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    Tablets are limited in terms of heavy word processing due to a decrease in usable screen size when the keyboard is on-screen and the lack of tactile feedback. However I did attend a talk recently on cloud computing from a company that employs a bring your own device policy; employees bring in their own tablet, laptop etc and have vitual desktop software installed.

    Desktops have been on the decline in terms of laptops being more convinient for many tasks but don't underestimate the advantages and niches that desktops employ. Personally I would be surprised if there were no desktops in 10-20 years time as I doubt the market for powerful home computers (it doesn't matter if technology progresses to make tablets/laptops better as desktops can just stuff more in) with large HD screens will go away. Possible exceptions to this could be if better bandwidth (in terms of both bits/second, reliability, coverage and cost) and foldable screens/keyboards kick off to allow a portable device of varying size which uses a cloud for heavy computation and data storage. We might then end up with an all-in-one device akin to the nokia morph concept

    Last edited: Apr 17, 2012
  23. Apr 17, 2012 #22
    When I'm at home I put my notebook on a notebook stand and I plug in a keyboard. This could also be done with a tablet. When tablets become as powerful as laptops currently are then I think we can say goodbye to our laptops.

    For the purpose of studying or office work, this is the equivalent of using a PC.

    When would you ever need a more powerful computer for office work? Of course, certain jobs might require more heavy machinery, but these are not the computers people need in their homes. Most home users will be satisfied with the basic functions and a platform to play games.

    When you look at how the console market has developed and in which direction it will develop and when you compare that to the developments in the PC market you will see a hugely anachronistic pattern. While a PC still means that you'll be staring at a screen close to your eyes, the introduction of HD and 3D TV-screens will have a huge impact on the console gaming experiences.

    I can't see anyone buy a PC for the sole purpose of playing games on it when there is a wide range of alternatives available.
  24. Apr 17, 2012 #23
    I disagree. I need a proper keyboard for pretty much anything I do, *and* I need a powerful computer. The only reason left to replace my laptop by some tablet is because a tablet is a bit smaller. Big deal. For me, the power/size ratio of a laptop is perfect, and until tablets become as powerful as the laptops *at the same time* AND come with a good keyboard included AND aren't as ridiculously expensive (relatively speaking) I'm sticking with my laptop.
  25. Apr 17, 2012 #24
    I said I plug in a keyboard. What else do you mean with a proper keyboard?
  26. Apr 17, 2012 #25
    Nothing. However, given that - like I said - I need a keyboard for everything I do, I see no reason to use a tablet that requires me to use an external keyboard. It's much more practical to have one included.
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