In the future, computers will mutate beyond recognition

August 31, 2010

You don’t have to worry much about the hardware.  The
hardware is ephemeral.  The glass boxes should no longer
impress you.  We’ve shipped our images inside glass boxes
for fifty years, but that’s a historical accident, a relic.
The glass boxes that we recognize as computers won’t last
much longer.  Already the boxes are becoming flat screens.
In the future, computers will mutate beyond recognition.
Computers won’t be intimidating, wire-festooned, high-rise
bit-factories swallowing your entire desk.  They will tuck
under your arm, into your valise, into your kid’s backpack.
After that, they’ll fit onto your face, plug into your ear.
And after that —  they’ll simply melt.  They’ll become
fabric.  What does a computer really need?  Not glass boxes
– — it needs thread — power wiring, glass fiber-optic,
cellular antennas, microcircuitry.  These are woven things.
Fabric and air and electrons and light.   Magic
handkerchiefs with instant global access.   You’ll wear them
around your neck.  You’ll make tents from them if you want.
They will be everywhere, throwaway.  Like denim.  Like
paper.  Like a child’s kite.

- Bruce Sterling, 1993

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