Computer Technology Forecast, 1997 2012 (Based on the Semiconductor Industry Associations 15-Year Technology Roadmap)
Robert N. Seitz
September 30, 1997
|4/00||600/Katmai||1,200||128||12||8||7.6||0.256||640X480 Vidcam, Zip 100|
|4/01||900/Willamette||2,700||256||20||18||15||0.256||800X600 Vidcam,RW CD|
|4/02||1,200/Merced II||5,000||512||35||32||15||0.4||1,024X758 Vidcam,RW CD|
|4/03||1,500/Merced II||7,000||1,024||60||45||15||0.4||1,280 X 960 Vidcam, RW|
|4/04||1,800/P8||10,000||1,024||100||65||60||1.0||1,920X1,080 Vidcam, RW|
|4/05||2,200/P8||12,500||2,048||200||80||180||1.5||System on a chip? DVD?|
|4/06||2,500/P8 II||16,000||4,096||400||100||180||1.5||System on a chip? DVD?|
|4/07||3,200/P9?||25,000||4,096||700||160||300||6.0||System on a chip? DVD?|
|4/08||4,000/P9 II?||40,000||8,192||1,000||250||500||6.0||System on a chip? DVD?|
|4/09||5,000/P9 II?||50,000||16,384||1,500||320||750||12.0||System on a chip? DVD?|
|4/10||6,500/P10?||80,000||16,384||2,000||450||1,000||12.0||System on a chip? DVD?|
Notes for interpreting Table 1:
` a. hard drive capacities have begun to double every year rather than every 2.25 years, and
"Systems on a chip" are forecast for the early years of the 21st century, in the interests of both speed and
Looking Ahead: What You Might Expect to Buy for $1,000 to $1,200
I should emphasize that the above kind of detailed prediction is fraught with peril. For example,
Computer Technology Overview
. . We are in the midst of an ongoing computer technology
revolution that dwarfs anything else in human experience. Today,
you can buy a megabyte of RAM (Random Access Memory) for $3.00.
Thirty years ago, in 1967, my employers at NASA paid $3,000,000
to buy that same megabyte of RAM for their Univac 1108
computersa 1,000,000:1 price reduction! If this had
happened in the automotive world, it would be as though you could
buy a new Mercedes, costing $10,000 in 1967, for 1¢ today!
Twenty years ago, in 1977, when Radio Shack and Commodore
introduced the worlds first personal computers, Radio Shack
had to charge $266 for 8 kilobytes of RAM. Today, 64 megabytes
of RAM costs $192 (about a 10,000-to-1 ratio).
. . It may well be that the computer sitting on my desktop is more powerful than all the worlds computers put together in 1967. Here again, there is a price/performance improvement of the order of 1,000,000:1. But if that doesnt astonish you, try this. In 1946, ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator), the first electronic digital computer, was able to perform something like 3 decimal calculations a second. Fifty years later, in 1997, Intel delivered a computer that performs one trillion decimal calculations per second300 billion times faster than ENIAC! A 10-trillion decimal calculation computer is forecast for 2000, rising to 30 trillion in 2001 and 100 trillion in 2005.
. . The cheapest magnetic disks in 1967 stored one (1) megabyte of data and probably added $10,000 to the price of an IBM 1130 minicomputer. The current price is about $.04 a megabyte (Until recently, magnetic disk prices declined somewhat slower than RAM prices.) Appendix A contains plots and further discussions of these price trends.
. . For the past 30 years, both speed and storage have improved by a factor of 10 every 5 yearsMoores Law.
. . There is reason to believe that this astounding rate of computer technology improvement will continue through at least the year 2012 and perhaps, through the year 2022. The Semiconductor Industry Associations 15-year Technology Roadmap projects 13,000 MHz clock speeds (compared to 266 MHz today) and 256,000- megabit DRAM memory chips (compared to 256-megabit chips today) by the year 2012. Appendix B discusses the reliability of these forecasts. (I have been publishing computer technology forecasts since 1976. Appendix C contains these prior forecasts.)
. . What will we do with all this speed and storage capacity?
. . There is enormous room for improvement in computer capacity over the next fifteen years, just as there was 15 years ago. Computer games have begun to use multiple CD ROM disks. They could easily and very profitably utilize tens of gigabytes of DVD storage if it were available. By the year 2012, I predict that game developers will find it easy to fill up terabytes of DVD storage (giving us photo-realistic virtual worlds to explore!)
. . The same enormous need for improvement exists with respect to RAM and hard disk capacities, and to computer speeds. Artificial intelligence, speech recognition, natural language understanding, computer vision, improved data compression, graphic/virtual reality/laser holographic displays, MPEG2 and MPEG4 encoding, and computer games and simulations can all profit mightily from orders-of-magnitude improvements in computer speeds. Right now, games like "Riven" have to jump from snapshot to snapshot rather than allowing virtual-reality type movement. Also, when "Riven" runs a "video clip", the resolution has to be reduced to blurry pixel blocks so that the computer can alter the image in real time. It could easily use a factor-of-ten improvement in computer speeds just to handle its video clips. A speed-improvement factor of 1,000 may not be enough to support photo-realistic virtual reality.
. . In 1982, we were playing Pac-Man on our IBM and Commodore 64 computers. We might have wondered then how in the world we could use a 1,000-fold improvement in computer speeds and storage capacities. Now we know, and it has been wonderful. The next 15 years will be equally wonderful.
. . Jesse Burst, the editor of the ZD Anchor-Desk has suggested that we may look back upon the year 2000 as the year in which computer age began for the consumer.
Computer Applications Timeline
. . It is even more dangerous for me to try to forecast future applications of computer technology then it is to project the technology forecasts themselves, since the applications depend both upon knowledge I don't possess, and upon non-technical factors. However, I think that, over the next few years, personal computers are going to impact the man in the street to an unprecedented degree. The next ten or fifteen years--and in fact, the next few years--should be very exciting. The timeline depicted below should be considered to be a listing of some possible near-term technology applications rather than a reliable schedule for these applications to appear.
Voice mail Video-telephony? Conversational dolls appear about now?
Figure 4 - Computer Applications Timeline
These projections are discussed in greater detail in the following eight paragraphs.
Star-Trek-class speech recognition, when it is achieved, should permit the dictation of reports and letters faster and easier then can be done by keyboard. (Professional typists may become a vanishing breed.) Although many of us may find voice dictation a valuable tool from the outset, voice dictation may not begin to edge out manual typing for 5 to 10 more years.
(2) Natural Language Understanding and Conversation with the Aid of Artificial Intelligence
Natural language queries first appeared in 1997 with Microsoft Office. Natural-language understanding means that you can ask the computer questions in everyday English, such as "How do I double-space documents?" The computer (usually) correctly interprets this question and tells you how to do what you want to do. This capability is rumored to be a part of the Windows 98 operating system when it is introduced in 1998. One can probably expect to see it becoming widespread for "Help" functions in various software packages by next year (1998). The ability to frame sentences or to draw upon a large library of stored phrases may be expected as the next stage in this progression that will eventually lead to limited "understanding" in certain specialized fields. Computer-based telephone answering software that can process messages--e.g., giving a forwarding number to a select set of people--will probably come next, followed by software that will "understand" simple statements and queries, and will respond intelligently, permitting dialogs with computers. (Perhaps youll soon get an answer to the question, "Does my computer really love me?") However, before this can happen, computers will need to improve their voice recognition capabilities by becoming more accurate and speaker-independent. It will probably be the early years of the next century before this can happen5 to 8 years from now.
"Personal Assistants" may answer the telephone for us, and keep track of appointments, notifying us verbally.
Much of our equipment may respond to the spoken word.
(3) Voice-Operated Language Translation
Microsoft and Apple are both working feverishly on speech input and output.
(4) Robotic Lawn Mowers, Floor Scrubbers and Vacuum Sweepers
Robotic vacuum sweepers are probably the easiest to develop, since vacuum sweepers operate in small enclosed spaces and since they dont pose the hazards traditionally associated with lawn mowers. Electrolux is recently test-marketing an $800 floor sweeper the navigates a room, using ultrasound to "see" the room.
Dr. Hans Moravec has estimated that computational speeds of the order of 10 terops (10,000,000,000,000 operations per second) will be required to match the computing power of the human brain. . However, with speech synthesis, and speech, handwriting and optical character recognition, we are already encroaching upon rote-mechanical, higher-level human functions.
Of all mans inventions, robotics and artificial intelligence may well be the most profound. Its happening as we watch, in the form of speech recognition, facial recognition, speech synthesis, natural language responses, and smarter and smarter data base search engines. Weve come a long way in just the last few years. I'm afraid to set a timetable. The Matrox Genesis Six-Board Imaging System currently delivers more than 100,000,000,000 operations per second. It seems reasonable to suppose that by 2007, 10 years from now, its successor may provide the requisite 10 terops.
(5) Better Communications
Microsoft and Intel have bet their moneyseveral billion dollars of iton cable-based data services.
Cable companies have far greater incentives than telephone companies to move into this (for them) new area of data services. Cable services such as @Home are typically running $40 to $50 a month, including the Internet Service Provider fee, and are typically providing 1.5 Mb/sec. download speeds and 0.3 Mb/sec. upload data rates. This translates into about $13 per month per megabaud downstream and about $65 per month per megabaud upstream. Cable data residential service accounts, now numbering perhaps 100,000 nationwide, are expected to reach 1,000,000 subscribers by the middle of 1999, and 7,000,000 subscribers by 2002. Telephone residential xDSL accounts currently number about 1,000 and are expected to rise to perhaps 150,000 by 2002. The telephone companies will probably concentrate upon their less cost-sensitive business customers who may not have access to cable data services. In other words, they will continue to gouge their business customers.
Cable Alabama currently provides cable data services in the Huntsville area. At $99 a month, it is too expensive for most residential users but may be suitable for small office/home office users, or even larger businesses.
Satellite and wireless services are inherently expensive, and are dependent upon your telephone line for upstream data transmission.
It has recently been suggested that data might be transmitted into the home over electrical power wires.
If competition can ever gets a toehold in the telecommunications business, the cost of bandwidth may drop dramatically, but in the meantime, we are stuck with whatever the Bell Systems monopolies foist upon us, at least until Comcast brings its @Home service to Huntsville.
(6) Net Video-Casting
(8) Virtual Reality
One of the biggest obstacles facing virtual reality is the orders-of-magnitude speed reduction that arises when a graphics program is written to run under a Windows 95 or Macintosh operating environment. Most computer games have been written in DOS to achieve the speeds of which computers are capable. However, Microsoft has recently released a software development kit called WinG SDK that permits high-speed graphics under Windows 95.
I think that a promising application for virtual reality lies in the area of online merchandising. Apple Computing has just introduced a QuickTimeVR kit for easy "stitching-together" of 4p-steradian photographs of objects taken from all angles, so that you can rotate virtual objects on your screen. You can also zoom in and out to get a better look at them. Such virtual objects would also seem to be ideal candidates for 3-D displays so that we could get a good look at that pretty basket that we might want to order online. This is an area where tactile feedback might also be valuable. This probably wont happen next year but it would appear to be a good candidate for a marketing study. Theres probably a lot of money to be made by providing such services for online marketing. (The Mars Rover analysts are shown using red/green 3-D displays to get a feel for the Martian terrain around Sojourner.)
(9) Three-D Displays
(10) Toys That Converse with Children
(11) Autonomous Vehicles
I suspect that this timetable will be influenced by how rapidly autonomous highways are adapted by other countries. The real payoff will come through trucks and other commercial vehicles. Also, emotions will play a large part in this timetable. The first time an autonomous vehicle has an accident, and especially, the first time an autonomous vehicle causes a death, the media will have a field day. (The safest, most practical course would probably be to build or set aside interstates exclusively for use by autonomous trucks.