The home computer as we know it is dead. Look for home computers down the same rutted road as hootenannies, Fizzies, S&H Green Stamps and The Village People.
This not unwelcome news came in an article in The Economist, which put it straight: "Personal computers have never found a place in the home. They never will."Moreover, in a quirky, engaging book called Accidental Empires, Robert X. Cringely argues that even the typical office PC - the box and keyboard on the desk - is likewise headed for obsolescence. By the end of the decade, computer chips will have become miniature computers. We won't have computer chips, but chip computers.
Using the Macintosh as an example, Cringely explains what this chip business means for the future of PCs: "In two years, a Macintosh will have seven chips. Two years after that, the Mac will be two chips, and Apple won't be a computer company anymore. By then, Apple will be a software company that sells operating systems and applications for single-chip computers made by Motorola. The MacMotorola chips themselves may be installed in desktops, in notebooks, in television sets, in cars, in the wiring of houses, even in wristwatches."
These new computers will be able to converse with their users. The voice technology is available now, only the level of computing power required has restricted its use.
But new generations for chips will scoff - perhaps, literally - at such problems. So no more keyboards, no mice. Just speak up and your R2D2 will get busy.
I, for one, would not mourn the passing of all PCs from my life. Yes, I'm typing this on one, but to my way of thinking, it's just a voodoo typewriter.
I've a confession to make. Not wanting to be known as a techno-wimp, I have kept this secret for two decades. Now, given the reports on the PC's future, I can finally say it: I have never warmed up to computers.
They've never made sense to me. All this talk of MS Dos . . . who is this woman? And why is she covered with bites? Are they from this chip everyone calls "CAD"?
The best part of this news about computers is that I can stop feeling guilty about my children never using the one my wife and I bought them. As a country, we may be passing along to our descendants giant debts and a depleted environment, but we can look each kid in the eye and say, "At least you never had to learn the difference between the Option, Control and Command keys."
It's easy to forget how far we have already traveled. One day I was driving down Central Avenue in Phoenix and pointed our to my daughter the building whose exterior was inspired by the IBM card. She said, "Is that like a Visa card?"
Today's students are already spared the pure frustrations of card punch machines. They will never be reduced to submitting a stack of IBM cards to "the computer lab," then waiting six hours only to be handed a single sheet of paper without the word "ERROR."
Perhaps tomorrow's students will not have to seek out a "techie" to figure out why their machine "froze." Businesses will not need a computer consultant to arrive with a box of diskettes and, like a witch doctor, speak in tongues. No, the computer that replaces the computer should know how to do all that.
The computer is dead. Long live the computer!