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Author Topic: Random thoughts about the future of tech...  (Read 7351 times)

Offline D2Disciple

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Random thoughts about the future of tech...
« on: January 10, 2013, 08:13:25 AM »
Just yesterday, I received a refurbished Gateway netbook from good ole' Acer computer company, all while the ink regarding ASUSTeK's and Acer's decision to finally stop producing netbooks was still hot off the press. Not coincidentally, ASUSTeK and Acer were the only two companies still producing the miniature laptops at the end of 2012, so this news comes as a bit of a death sentence to the niche market.

I find this news to be disturbing. I started thinking... And I just thought I'd share here. Because, you know, this is a Descent forum. Where we, uh, talk about unrelated stuff.

I'm not sure I like where the future of technology is headed. The netbook was devised as a simple form of laptop that sacrificed performance for low power, high portability mobile computing. And it was good! Hence why I purchased one. And it's no slouch - a 1.6Ghz dual-core/quad-thread processor, 1GB of DDR3 RAM, 320GB HDD, and 10.1" 1024x600 WSVGA screen. All for 180 dollars. Not bad - and to all those naysayers, I haven't had a single hiccup in performance yet.

Conversely, my Kindle Fire (which I do actually like), costs 200 dollars, has a 7" touchscreen, an ARM-based dual-core processor, and 512MB of RAM. I typically use it for reading and occasionally playing Pandora while cooking in the kitchen. And yet, it's these touchscreen devices that are skyrocketing in popularity. All because it fixes a problem that no one had - the mouse and keyboard.

It seems to me the age of productivity is gone. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, and I will confess that the touchpad is a poor replacement for an actual mouse, but touch-tech and screen keyboards are only so useful. They're designed more for updating a Twitter account than for writing a persuasive essay, more for drawing stick-figure comics than for digital artistry. Small screens also often require full-screen apps to run, which eliminates the ability to multitask. Here, as I write, I'm literally copying an OS to a bootable USB drive so I can install it to said netbook. Try doing that with an MS Surface RT.

The irony in all this is the rise - and impending fall - of another niche market: the ultrabook. Ultrabooks are so named because they're super-light and super-thin: pioneered by the Apple Macbook Air, which I heavily criticized upon it's debut and continue to heavily criticize to this day. There is simply no conceivable situation that can arise in which the difference in thickness between a normal laptop and an ultrabook would cause a spatial complication so frustrating that it would be necessary to spend the extra cash on an ultrabook. I've never that the depth of the screen on my laptop was too thick for me to fit on my desk. Likewise, a difference of a half-pound would probably be imperceptible to most - I'd be more worried about a laptop burning my thighs during mobile use than whether or not it might cause slightly more shoulder strain (something I've never encountered with even the heaviest mobile PCs).

The concept of spending more for less is absolutely absurd. But the truth is that the "coolness" of a device is almost always determined by it's thinness. Never mind the fact that most people attach cases to their ultra-thin smartphones so that it adds enough bulk to be handled without it slipping out of their hands (my Samsung Galaxy SIII is a perfect example of this).

Have we been so duped by sci-fi movies and technological gimmickry that the concept of getting actual work done with the most appropriate input devices is no longer cool? The fact is that my netbook is the same size as an iPad, is probably twice as thick (whoop-de-doo), and costs about a third as much. And yet, the convenience of having a keyboard and touchpad attached is much greater than the convenience of a touchscreen. I can still play music, watch movies, download apps, surf the net, check my e-mail, and the like. And I can do it faster and more efficiently! It's just not as "cool," apparently.

I feel like there is, possibly, a necessity for gimmickry created by technological over-advancement - that is to say, it's necessary to increase the cool factor of the computer by using touchscreens and small form-factors simply because increases in traditional desktop/laptop performance has greatly outpaced our increases in performance needs. 90% of the world could probably do everything they need to do with a 300 dollar Target superstore laptop special. But why do that when the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is so much cooler? It even comes with a stylus! Wait, wasn't that par for the course when you bought a mid-90s Palm Pilot? And look where those are now...

Some things are just better done the good old fashioned way - heck, Apple invented Mac OS with a windowed UI so we could stop using full-screen apps on our computers. Ironic how Apple has almost single-handedly ushered in a new era of computer where we use - go figure - full-screen apps for everything we do. Now Google and MS are even in the game, and when the PC fades into oblivion, everybody loses.

So what are your thoughts? Is touch the future of computing? Is smaller really better? What tech trends today will end up as fads in hindsight, just like the netbook? Shout out below!

* D2Junkie wants to make this a Soupe, but since he hasn't been around much, he feels like maybe it's a bit brash.

I, for one, hope this is much, much more than a reconnaissance mission.

Offline IHateHackers

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Re: Random thoughts about the future of tech...
« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2013, 10:13:31 AM »
The rest of your post seems mostly a matter of personal preference, but I would like to point out that the surface RT has full multitasking capability.

Offline Kaiaatzl

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Re: Random thoughts about the future of tech...
« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2013, 02:43:47 PM »
I agree about netbooks, I use one to take notes at university and its so much easier to carry it around for the day than having to bring my laptop and carry it around.  And it was less than $300.  Not to mention that it comes out of hibernation, and goes back into hibernation (or sleep), so much faster than my laptop; which is very very useful when I have two classes back to back.
And that isn't even mentioning the battery life comparison -- my laptop battery barely lasts for one class (and it definitely wouldn't last for a night class!) and there aren't any good spots to charge a computer on campus; most of the classrooms don't even have outlets in easy reach.

Also I hate tablets because I hate touchscreens.  I need haptic feedback when I'm typing so I don't need to look at my fingers (or paws; strange things can happen sometimes).

Anyway this would make a good soupe.  Railing against some form of injustice on a board where the perpetrators of said injustice aren't even aware of the website's existence -- or the existence of its subject matter, more understandably -- is always a classic.

Offline Scyphi

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Re: Random thoughts about the future of tech...
« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2013, 08:13:00 AM »
Well, D2Junkie, you certainly raise a couple of good points, and I agree that, indeed, technology has been very focused on gimmickry as of late, but at the same time, I do not think it is quite as bad as you make it out to be.

My reasoning is this: you are dissatisfied with touchscreen tech because it is a poor substitute for various precision activities like digital art, typing, etc. This made me think that those that are in those professions probably think the same. They will still desire the more traditional technologies before touchscreens and the such. Therefore, so long as that demand persists (and I see no reason for it to die out anytime soon), touchscreen tech will likely never fully replace traditional tech for that very reason.

Furthermore, some developers of touchscreen tech has seen already that there are some things touchscreen tech cannot do as well, and have provided means to have the both of best worlds, like portable keyboards for your iPad. Just the other day in class, I saw a student taking notes with his iPad with a small wireless keyboard that went with it. And then the iPad operated much like a regular laptop, except with the benefits of both worlds, as I said. Plus, screen size is actually not so limited after all. My campus's store has this monster of a monitor/computer (I haven't looked into it's full specs completely, but it seems to be an all-in-one deal) that behaves much like a regular non-touchscreen OS, but is fully touchscreen capable, again merging both worlds. This screen is also plenty big enough that performing digital art on it would be no sweat (part of what drew my attention to it in the first place).

Finally, I want to point out the fact that mankind is still figuring out just what touch-technology is capable (or not capable) of doing, like various other technologies similar to it (like motion sensing tech) and what kind of operating interface best supports all of these. Some notable strides have been made already, but I'm sure there are many more notable strides like that that await in the future, and who knows, one of them might solve some of these issues you have with touchscreens D2Junkie. :)

But yes, technology has been very focused on the gimmick, and not so much on the practicality as much as it ought to. You especially see this in the modern video gaming world.
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Offline Texace12

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Re: Random thoughts about the future of tech...
« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2013, 01:12:50 AM »
The concept of spending more for less is absolutely absurd. But the truth is that the "coolness" of a device is almost always determined by it's thinness. Never mind the fact that most people attach cases to their ultra-thin smartphones so that it adds enough bulk to be handled without it slipping out of their hands (my Samsung Galaxy SIII is a perfect example of this).


I just got the GS3 back in October, and while I was amazed at how fast it was compared to my EVO, I was very unimpressed at how thin it was. I don't need a phone to be that thin. Instead of making it "look cool," why not maintain the thickness of 2 years ago and put a friggin' larger battery in that "extra space"? So I did.  It cost me $90-ish, I can grip it better, and the (slightly) added weight FEELS like the pricey phone it really is!! I ordered the Mugen Power 4600 mAh battery. It is FAR superior to the stock 2100 mAh battery that came with it. I can run this phone without a charge for 2 whole days while using it to its maximum potential.

Here's where to buy: http://www.mugen-power-batteries.com/review/product/list/id/910/category/1191/?p=1
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Offline -<WillyP>-

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Re: Random thoughts about the future of tech...
« Reply #5 on: January 14, 2013, 12:16:23 PM »
* D2Junkie wants to make this a Soupe, but since he hasn't been around much, he feels like maybe it's a bit brash.

Nah, we are just glad to have you here and contribute when you can!  8)
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Offline IHateHackers

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Re: Random thoughts about the future of tech...
« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2013, 11:56:27 AM »
I think technology has always been rather gimmicky. Things haven't changed. Gimmicks sell technology on the cutting edge. As it gets more refined, it becomes less of a gimmick and becomes the standard. Touch technology, like other technologies before it, will eventually be refined into an effective tool. Tablets have their uses, and as the technology is refined, their uses will expand, but they're far from useless as they are. Heck, I would already argue that a tablet with a touch-screen and a dual-core processor is more useful a development than an 8-core hyper-threading processor, or 16GB RAM sticks at consumer-friendly prices. There is nothing you can do today with 8 cores that you can't do with 6 or 4 just as fast, and nobody actually needs more than 8GB of RAM (Or 4GB per stick. Those with high-end needs can go with 4x4). On the other hand, recent developments in the Tablet area are enormous leaps in comparison. Twice as much processing power, longer battery life, better touch technology. Don't get me wrong, Tablets aren't a replacement for a computer or a laptop. They're their own device, and they have their own uses, both in the business world and the consumer world.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2013, 11:58:55 AM by IHateHackers »

Offline Scyphi

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Re: Random thoughts about the future of tech...
« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2013, 10:53:22 AM »
Well said, IHateHackers. :D
"I thought I had a great idea, but it never really took off. In fact, it didn't even get on the runway. I guess you could say it exploded in the hanger." -Calvin and Hobbes
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Offline -<WillyP>-

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Re: Random thoughts about the future of tech...
« Reply #8 on: January 21, 2013, 07:09:48 AM »
True, a lot of it is 'smoke 'n mirrors' but in the end it filters out and core products remain. Of course by then there are new smoke and mirrors, and soon the stuff that was so cutting edge becomes obsolete.
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Offline IHateHackers

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Re: Random thoughts about the future of tech...
« Reply #9 on: January 22, 2013, 05:06:25 AM »
True, a lot of it is 'smoke 'n mirrors' but in the end it filters out and core products remain. Of course by then there are new smoke and mirrors, and soon the stuff that was so cutting edge becomes obsolete.
I don't think smoke and mirrors is the right way to put it, as that implies some sort of deception, especially intended deception. Fluff, perhaps.

Offline Sidhe Priest

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Re: Random thoughts about the future of tech...
« Reply #10 on: January 26, 2013, 09:42:48 PM »
You've got too many contracted "it is" instead of "its" in your post.

Anyway, it's a huge pity. MSI is still producing netbooks, is it? Looks like the computer makers simply weren't getting enough profit out of it all. The irony is, to make a fruity player or any other touch device remotely useful, you have to spend $$ on Bluetooth keyboards, which are too small and lame compared to any netbook regardless. And it's all way more expensive.

The reason why devices become thin is a lot simpler: less materials spent and smaller batteries mean less of an expense to manufacture. More of a profit, again. "Coolness" has little to do here, other than marketing, that is, brainwashing departments drivelling about it.

Offline Sidhe Priest

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Re: Random thoughts about the future of tech...
« Reply #11 on: January 26, 2013, 09:44:43 PM »
Touch devices are toys, pretty much. A friend's kids use his touchscreen phone for playing all sorts of arcade games whenever it's not in use... And it's good for little else, typing on a touchscreen keyboard is a nightmare.

 

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