Visions of the Future of Computing Professor Peter Excell Professor of Communications / Athro Cyfathrebu Glyndwr University / Prifysgol Glyndŵr
Computing: Where Have We Come From? • Computers, Communications and Broadcasting are CONVERGING • Computers started over 60 years ago • Initially seen as ‘mathematical’ • But - Alternative view: computer as a communications device (c.f. Colossus code-breaker)
Where Have We Come From? • 60s/70s: networking and Arpanet Internet • 60s: Telephone networks adopted digital (PCM) systems • Telephone Exchanges hence become a form of computer
Parallel and Vector Computers A ‘Big Iron’ view of the way forward • SISD: single instruction, single data • SIMD: single instruction, multiple data • (MISD: multiple instruction, single data) • MIMD: multiple instruction, multiple data
Parallel and Vector Computers Flops: floating-point operations per second • MegaFlops – 106 • GigaFlops – 109 • TeraFlops – 1012 • PetaFlops – 1015 • Exaflops - 1018
Parallel and Vector Computers Success in Vector Processing: Seymour Cray Cray-1 at London Science Museum (P. Excell)
Parallel and Vector Computers Cray’s philosophy: build maximum-speed serial processors first (vector processors), then parallel them if necessary. • Cray’s career: CDC 6600, 7600, Cray 1 - vector processors for SIMD (not parallel as such) • Then cautious parallelism: Cray 2, X-MP, Y-MP • Then more parallelism, using torus structure: Cray T3D, T3E • Cray was much more successful than his rivals, but he relied on Cold-War defence funding. • Japanese fifth-generation project: machines following Cray’s philosophy from Fujitsu, Hitachi and NEC • Problems in parallelisation (or vectorisation) of problems and software: some think it should be transparent, but that often seems to fail.
Parallel and Vector Computers Parallel wreckage in the dustbin of history: • Floating Point Systems Corp. • Kendall Square Research Corp. • The Connection Machine (Thinking Machines Corp.) • Convex Computer Corp. • Inmos Transputer • Meiko Computing Surface • CDC Cyber 205 computer (Cray-1 rival) • eta-10 (CDC’s last fling) • Parsytech GmbH • Cray-3 and 4 computers (planned but never built) • occam parallel programming language • Dataflow computer architecture
Parallel and Vector Computers Structures: • Parallel Virtual Machine (PVM) • Message passing interface (MPI) • Beowulf systems • Grid • Multicore • Cloud
Parallel and Vector Computers What about Quantum Computing? • Seems to be a sort of super-parallel machine • No clear view of when will become viable • Could be driven by intelligence needs
Apple 1 and Altair Apple 1 and Altair - National Museum of American History, Washington
Where Have We Come From? • Computer communications: at first for ‘serious’ uses • Early PC uses also ‘serious’ • PC business almost died, then Cold War ended • Mass market had to be appealed to • Consumer applications threw up worthwhile new challenges • Moore’s Law: a major influence on strategy
The Rise of the PC: An Extraordinary Shambles • The ‘Home Computer’ was evolving incrementally (e.g. Apple II), then IBM stormed in, rushing to get into the PC business. • 3 dreadful business errors meant IBM threw away its hardware and software: • Compaq hacked BIOS (legally), because it wasn’t protected properly: this led to the burgeoning of PC clones • The best OS company (CP/M) was scared off by non-disclosure agreements: the OS business was then given to Microsoft on a much weaker basis • Microsoft was assigned rights to all software
The Rise of the PC: An Extraordinary Shambles Further: • The GUI and mouse concepts were developed at Xerox PARC – not seen as of value to Xerox • Essentially copied by Apple • Then copied by Microsoft Other business failures: • BBC Microcomputer, Acorn, Sinclair, Amstrad, Commodore, Tandy..
Where Have We Come From? Communications: • Optical fibres huge capacity packetised messages Internet • Crucially dependent on a computer at each end of link • GSM revolution (digital mobile phones) • Highly complex - but cheap processors - mass market justifies huge investment, leading to commoditisation • Upgrade path mapped: 2.5G – 3G – 3.5G – 4G • 5G – millimetre-wave??
Where Have We Come From? • Mobile is established part of everyday life worldwide • No. of subscribers over 4 billion • i.e. about 3 people in 5 in the World • Will be 1 in 1 soon (already reached in Europe) • (c.f. PCs – market saturated at a much lower level? Is this market dominated by relatively affluent males??)
Where Are We Going? • Mobile phone: has more processing power than recent-past PCs • Mobile has increasing Internet ability • All it needs to replace the PC is storage and better HCI (human-computer interface): • Miniature hard disks already available (e.g. in iPod) • Input: e.g. voice recognition, handwriting recognition, folding/miniaturised keyboards – 3.5G laptops • Output: larger video displays in phones, unfurlable screens, ‘head-up’ display devices
Where Are We Going? iPhone: amazing triumph of coolness plus usability Blackberry’s response: Storm/Thunder Google Android – new player↓ OVI – Nokia’s answer
Future Concepts iPhone problem (until iPhone 4) – or is it?
Additional Functionalities Bluetooth - Earpieces; Handsfree; Netbooks… UWB (Bluetooth 2) – much greater bandwidth RFID - major opportunity: mobile wallet; rewriting tags… Glyndŵr RFID stolen tax disc checker
Additional Functionalities GPS E.g. Branded meeting places project. Edinburgh & Glyndŵr Univs. Tagged memory places near Edinburgh Univ
Where Are We Going? ‘Paper-like’ unfurlable concepts - ~A5-size output device
Where Are We Going? Alternative input devices
Where Are We Going? Alternative input devices - Haptics Alternative output device - Eyepiece display Gaming/video devices: Good, but block vision
Where Are We Going? Military in the vanguard: Full head-up display
Where Are We Going? Watch computer/ mobiles: – Stalled – why?
Where Are We Going? • Raft of ambitious roll-out plans • 3.5G, 3G-LTE, 4G, 5G - evolved from GSM • SMS MMS; WAP WAP 2 Mobile Internet; email; 3G with video bandwidth (why not used much?); 4G will have more bandwidth than needed for video…. • WLAN (e.g. WiFi or IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n) a rival technology – was thought might merge with 3G to form basis of 4G – now a sideshow • Mobile WMAN (e.g. WiMAX or 802.16e/802.20) – another rival for 4G – beaten by LTE • PANs: Bluetooth (802.15.1); UWB (802.15.3); ZigBee (802.15.4) • Mobile TV (DVB-H; DMB)
Where Are We Going? Can we get a clearer view? Can we avoid the mistakes of the past?
Technological Forecasting A necessarily imprecise management tool that attempts to predict the evolution of technology in the near-term future.
Why is it important? ▪ All technology-based companies, and most individuals, have to form a view about the near-term evolution of technology, to decide on investments, purchases, life plans and career paths. ▪ We are living through a particularly exciting time in the evolution of technology: ▪ Computers; Mobile phones; (insert your favourite here)
The Kurzweil Singularity Peter Cochrane (ex BT futurologist): “In my estimation it will go something like this: 2006 internet ~ 1 human brain 2012 internet ~ 1,000 human brains2018 internet ~ 1,000,000 human brains2024 internet ~ 1,000,000,000 human brains2034 internet ~ 1,000,000,000,000 human brains” Already, we can read people’s minds, crudely, using MEG (Magnetoencephalography): by 2100 it is reasonable to expect that this will have enough resolution to enable the complete brain contents to be downloaded
Futurology: an Aid to Insight Millimetre Timeline focuses thoughts: 1mm 1 year 1 metre 1000 years 1km 1 million years 1000 km 1 billion years So: The Renaissance ~40 cm Industrial Revolution ~20 cm Computing ~6.5 cm - The blink of an eye…
Digital Examples ▪ The PC, contrary to the expectations of only a few years ago, has become a widely used device and the dominant form of computer. And yet it shows signs of having reached a plateau. ▪ Meanwhile, the mobile phone has become even more widespread around the world and appears likely to acquire all of functionality of the PC within a short time.
Personal Perspectives Several technologies have effectively died out over recent decades: can we predict when this will happen, to avoid damage to our careers? Patricroft steam locomotive depot, 1968 Radio Valve
Personal Perspectives • Recent ‘deaths’: • CRT screens • Incandescent light bulbs • Analogue TV • Film cameras • Floppy disks • Vinyl records • Tape? • 1G mobile
Personal Perspectives Several promising innovations have also failed to take off in the way that was hoped: can we predict this better? Gas turbine vehicles – Hovercraft – Concorde – Electric vehicles – Betamax – Superconductivity – Transputers – Sinclair QL – Sinclair C5 – Minidisks… ▪ What should we invest our time and money in? ▪ There is thus a need to have a vision of where present and future technologies are heading.
Personal Perspectives C.f. The remarkable failures of forward vision in the mobile industry: ▪ The unexpected success of SMS ▪ The marketing debacle of WAP-1 ▪ The extraordinarily low uptake of video telephony ▪ The unexpected success of the iPhone
Great Blunders in Forecasting I think there is a world market for maybe five computers. Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943 Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons. ‘Popular Mechanics’, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949 It would appear that we have reached the limits of what it is possible to achieve with computer technology, although one should be careful with such statements, as they tend to sound pretty silly in 5 years. John von Neumann, computing pioneer, 1949
Great Blunders in Forecasting British government calculation, early 1950s, to establish the size of the market for computers: Computers do arithmetic, so estimate the total number of arithmetic calculations being done by human beings (principally financial clerks) and calculate how many contemporary computers were required to replace this work… Answer: 4 (but add a 5th one in Scotland for political reasons)
Great Blunders in Forecasting There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home. Ken Olson, president and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977 640K ought to be enough for anybody. Bill Gates, 1981
Great Blunders in Forecasting By the mid-1980s the home computer boom appeared to be nothing more than a short lived and, for some computer manufacturers, expensive fad. … As a result a device that was initially heralded as the forerunner of a new technological era was a spectacular failure that threatened to bankrupt the firms that had invested billions of dollars in its development. From "The Evolution of Technology" by George Basalla (Department of History, University of Delaware), Cambridge University Press, 1988 (reprinted 1995)
The S-Curve Horizontal scale is for illustration only: measures of technological parameters and evolution durations vary widely. Tech. Parameter = 1 represents the physical or natural limit of what is possible
The Industry/Technology Life-Cycle Scales are for illustration only. Key problem: defining the boundary of a particular technology
Triggers for the Decay Phase Michael Duffy’s concept of ‘Design Impasse’: improvements are physically possible, but effort is better directed elsewhere (Duffy, M.C. Technomorphology and the Stephenson traction system. Trans. Newcomen Society, Vol. 54 (1982-83) pp. 55-78) E.g. The ‘Sailing Ship Effect’; Steam engines
Moore’s Law Gordon Moore, of Intel, made a prediction about the rate of increase of processing power (or “intelligence”) of microprocessors. He said that the number of transistor gates on a silicon chip would double every 18 months. He made his prediction around 1965 and, amazingly, it has held true ever since. This is known as Moore’s Law. Not a law of physics: it is partly a self-fulfilling prophecy, because Intel’s shareholders would think the company had a problem if it could not maintain this rate of progress, but would suspect it was spending too much on R&D if it exceeded it.