Computer Technology Forecast,
1997 – 2012 (Based Upon the Semiconductor Industry Association’s 15-Year
Robert N. Seitz
September 30, 1997
Table 1: What You Might Expect
on Your Desktop for $1,000-$1,200, 1997 through 2012:
Vidcam, Zip 100
X 960 Vidcam, RW
on a chip? DVD?
on a chip? DVD?
on a chip? DVD?
on a chip? DVD?
on a chip? DVD?
on a chip? DVD?
Notes for interpreting Table 1: (Column
2):Multiprocessing (use of multiple computers) is moving into the mainstream,
with the future possibility of placing more than one microprocessor on
a chip or of paying somewhat more for multiprocessor boards (which would
sell more chips). This can provide an alternative method of achieving higher
speeds for certain classes of partition-able, computationally demanding
calculations. Also, the long-term role of Intel’s IA-64 (P7) architecture
on the desktop is far from clear to me. Designations like Merced, P8, P9,
and P10 are meant to be suggestive rather than prophetic. (Column 3): Computer
speeds have become much more difficult to quantify with the introduction
of super-scalar, super-pipelined, out-of-sequence processing, as well as
MMx. Add to that changes in benchmarking from Megops to MIPS to SPECInt92s
toSPECInt95s and it becomes hard to know where you are. Integer applications
that are conducive to MMx may run several times faster than shown in Column
3. (Column 4) RAM (Random Access Memory) may move from EDO RAM in ’97 to
SDRAM in ’98 and ’99 to Rambus in 2000. Access to memory has become the
principal bottleneck to faster computing, and new techniques are appearing
to facilitate faster and faster memory access. (Column 5): Hard drive capacities
are complicated by the fact that:
(a) hard drive capacities have begun to double every year rather than every
2.25 years, and
3.5" disk capacities are expected to top out at a theoretical limit of
I’m assuming that won’t happen. (Seagate has just announced a new laser-optical
registration approach currently used for "flopticals" that is touted to
economically increase hard drive capacities by 10-to-20-fold, permitting,
by 2012, 20-terabyte drives at, perhaps, $40-$50 a terabyte.)
(Column 6) Multimedia accelerators may be absorbed into "system-on-a-chip"
processors, first for low-end systems by 1998-99, and later, for high-end
computers. However, MMx2 should permit digital signal processing applications
to run 6 or 7 times as fast as the main computer.
Column 7) 160-GB CD drives are in the works for 2005, with 1,000-GB CD
drives forecast for 2010.
(Column 8) Communications bandwidths are a bit of a wild card, depending
as they do upon information-utility politics and upon upgrading of Internet
servers, lines, and hubs. Modems are switching to software implementations.
Sound cards will probably follow.
(Column 9) Video cameras are expected to drop as low as $30 by 12/98. Some
sort of successor to the floppy disk is essential. Rewritable CDs may be
the cheapest way to go.
"Systems on a chip" are forecast for the early years
of the 21st century, in the interests of both speed and economy.
Looking Ahead: What You Might Expect to Buy for $1,000
133 MHz Pentium
32 MB EDO RAM
2.5 GB Hard Drive
Diamond Stealth 2000, 2 MB 3-D Graphics Accelerator
16X CD Drive
33.6 Fax Modem
16-Bit Sound Card, Speakers, Microphone
AGP-Equipped 266 MHz Slot 1 Pentium II or 266
32 MB SDRAM
4.3 GB Hard Drive
Matrox Mystique 220 4 MB, 3-D, AGP Graphics Accelerator
24X CD Drive
56k Fax Modem
16-bit Sound Card, Speakers, Microphone
400 MHz Deschutes Pentium II or K6 with 100
MHz Bus. Might have AGP2, Firewire, and/or Slot 2..
64 MB SDRAM
8.2 GB Hard Drive
Matrox Millenium II, 4 MB, 3-D Graphics Accelerator
32X CD? DVD?
56k Fax Modem
Awe 64 Value Sound Card, Speakers, Microphone
600 MHz Katmai Pentium II (with 133 MHz Bus?), MMx2, AGP 2, Slot 2, or
600 MHz K7
128 MB SDRAM
12 GB Hard Drive
3-D Graphics Acceleration (Software?)
4.7/7.6 GB DVD
56 k/112k Fax Modem (Software?) Cable Modem?
Dolby 2-Speaker, 3-D Surround Sound (Software?), Speakers, Microphone
Video Camera(?), Zip or Jaz drive
I should emphasize that the above kind of detailed prediction
is fraught with peril. For example,
1,000 MHz Willamette Pentium II or K7. 133
128 MB RDRAM
20 GB Hard Drive
3-D Graphics Acceleration
7-15 GB DVD - Rewritable(?)
Wide-Band (256 Kb or greater) Cable Modem? ADL?
Dolby 2-Speaker, 3-D Surround Sound, Speakers, Stereo Microphones
Computer Technology Overview
I would be willing to pay $40 to $45 a month for 64-kilobaud-or-faster
Internet service but there’s no way of knowing when that will become available
to me. (I’m guessing 2001 but that’s just a guess. ZD Anchor Desk thinks
it will happen in 1999.) In prior predictions, I have been much too optimistic
about how soon we’ll have low-cost, wide-band access.
I don’t know how soon DVDs will go mainstream or how rapidly their capacities
Rewritable DVDs seem like the most logical backup device to me, but they
may not be.
The role of 64-bit processors such as the K7 and the P7 probably depends
upon what kind of competition Intel gets from Cyrix and Advanced Micro
Video cameras may not be common until wider-band communications appear.
Computer memory access has become a major bottleneck to increased computer
speeds and it’s hard to know what innovations will appear to circumvent
As computer speeds increase, it may be feasible to perform audio, video,
graphics and modem functions largely in software on the central CPU. Alternatively,
it may be that these functions will be performed by special circuitry on
the central CPU. A first step in this direction may be Motorola’s software-based
modem and its consolidation into an audio card. Of course, speakers, a
microphone and power amplifiers will still be needed for audio output.
Also, if modems are replaced by cable or DSL modems running at much higher
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 computers—a 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 world’s
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
It may well be that the computer sitting on my desktop
is more powerful than all the world’s computers put together in 1967. Here
again, there is a price/performance improvement of the order of 1,000,000:1.
But if that doesn’t 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 second—300 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 years—Moore’s 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
Association’s 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
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
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
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 the technology
forecasts themselves, since they 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.
Conversational dolls begin to appear
reality becomes major entertainment medium?
voice- ..............................voice- ......................................3-D
assistants" .............."Office Assistants"
answering ......................begin handling
Robotic lawn mowers, scrubbers, sweepers?............assignments
Basic voice-operated language translation Fluent voice-operated language
Figure 4 - Computer
These projections are discussed in greater detail in the following eight
The first consumer-oriented "voice writers" appeared in June of this year
(1997) when Dragon Systems introduced "Naturally-Speaking", the first general-purpose,
continuous-speech dictation system. It was priced at $695 ($169 by December),
including a noise-canceling microphone. By September, IBM had its competing
product, "ViaVoice", on the market for $99, including a noise-canceling
microphone. ViaVoice requires a 166 MHz Pentium, preferably with MMx, 32
MB of RAM and 130 MB of disk space—too steep for most 1997 PC owners. The
ability of these first "voice writers" to recognize speech is currently
far inferior to human speech recognition, just as early chess-playing programs
were far inferior to human chess players. (They make many mistakes.) However,
as computer capabilities continue to increase and as a market develops
for voice dictation, they may be expected to steadily improve.
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
(3) Voice-Operated Language Translation
Voice-operated language translation can probably happen right now, using
high-speed laptop computers. Within months, a continuous-speech recognition
system, such as IBM's "ViaVoice" or Dragon Systems' "Naturally Speaking"
could be coupled with a good translation program and a foreign-language
text-to-speech program to accept inputs from a microphone and deliver outputs
through the laptop's speaker. You will speak into it in English and will
see the sentence(s) printed on the screen. When you are satisfied that
they are correct, you will OK them and the translator’s speaker will speak
them in Arabic, Turkish or Japanese (a la Star Trek). Ultimately, this
might take the form of a pocket-sized, clip-on device with a throat microphone
and built-in speaker. It might store a very large number of common phrases
such as "Do you have a Men's/Ladies' room?" or "I'm from Huntsville, Alabama",
as well as translating extemporaneous inputs. You might even store your
own custom library of translated phrases before you visited another country.
Such hand-held devices may appear within one to three years.
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 you’ll
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
happen—5 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
Microsoft and Apple are both working feverishly
on speech input and output.
(4) Robotic Lawn Mowers, Floor Scrubbers and Vacuum Sweepers
I have been predicting simple robotic floor sweepers, floor scrubbers and
lawn mowers for years, and for years, it hasn’t happened. The bottleneck
may lie in the need for computer vision, which isn't yet cheap enough for
these portable applications. Sooner or later, they're bound to reach the
marketplace. The biggest problem is that of knowing where the sweeper or
lawn mower is located at any given moment. The next biggest problem is
coping with unexpected—e.g., your son left his bicycle in the middle of
the yard. They will probably be used first in commercial applications,
where labor costs are involved.
Robotic vacuum sweepers are probably the easiest
to develop, since vacuum sweepers operate in small enclosed spaces and
since they don’t 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 man’s inventions, robotics and artificial
intelligence may well be the most profound. It’s 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.
We’ve 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
(5) Better Communications
In contrast to computer technology, which has progressed at warp speed,
telephone technology, as perceived by the user, isn’t much farther ahead
today than it was when Alexander Graham Bell invented it in 1876. Technically
by now, telephone conversations could take place in CD-quality sound but
instead, they sound just as I remember them sounding in 1935. Our consumer-discernible
telephone innovations have probably occurred only because of the Carterphone
Decision that forced the Bell System to allow foreign devices to be attached
to telephone lines. ISDN was touted as the next step in communications
bandwidth, but it has been priced beyond the point where most consumers
want to buy it, especially since it can’t also be used for voice. The regional
Bell telephone companies have a monopoly on telephone service and they
charge about $550 per month per megabaud for bandwidth. Why should they
reduce the price of bandwidth when they can hold the customer for ransom?
As one author puts it they are moving into field trials at the speed of
"a snail on valium". The author points out that the regional Bell operating
companies are more adept at fighting competitive deregulation in the courtroom
than at improved delivery of services. After two years of field trials,
none of the regional Bells have provided a single commercial rollout! There
is now a lot of hype in the electronics news media about "splitterless
ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line)" services. In the meantime, technological
wizardry has given us 56K modems. Now, modems are under development that
can multiplex data simultaneously over two telephone lines to double our
bandwidths (to 67.2 kilobits per second upstream and 112 kilobits per second
downstream) at only twice the cost of a single telephone line. Also, better
data compression and local-cache techniques are appearing that may expedite
data transmission over existing telephone circuits.
Microsoft and Intel have bet their money—several billion dollars of
it—on 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
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
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
Video broadcasting and entertainment over the Internet is currently available,
but TV-caliber broadcasting awaits much-wider bandwidth communications.
For most of us, that may not occur until the next millenium. However, CDs
could bring video entertainment to us before that time (which, in a sense,
they’re already doing).
Like video broadcasting, video-telephony requires higher bandwidth than
is currently available to most of us. Also, it requires video equipment
at both ends of the telephone line. It will probably be the next millenium
before videoconferencing is in widespread use (3 to 5 years).
(8) Virtual Reality
Virtual reality could become the hottest entertainment medium in history.
In a sense, it already is, in the form of computer games. It is extremely
computationally demanding, and can profit from orders-of-magnitude improvements
in computing speeds. It would also profit from 3-D displays, tactile feedback,
and other enhancements. Ultimately, it will probably supplant conventional
TV, including VCRs.
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
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 won’t happen next year but it would appear
to be a good candidate for a marketing study. There’s 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
Like robotic sweepers, I have been predicting 3-D displays for years, and
like robotic sweepers, they haven't appeared yet. Three-D equipment is
inexpensively available but for some reason, it hasn't yet caught on. I
believe that virtual reality displays are likely candidates for 3-D imagery.
(10) Toys That Converse with Children
Conversational dolls and toys are dependent upon hardware prices dropping
low enough to fit in toys. Memory will be the key to this. Once RAM prices
fall to, perhaps, $0.25 a megabyte--which should happen by 2003--it should
become feasible to incorporate a general-purpose voice-recognition and
voice-synthesis engine in a toy. It may even be possible earlier than that.
By 2005, this level of embedded computing capacity should pose no problem.
In the meantime, the software to support such interactions with children
should steadily improve. Who knows what toys will be like in 20 years?
(11) Autonomous Vehicles
In concert with federal and state government agencies, a consortium comprised
of GM, Toyota and Honda is testing experimental autonomous vehicles on
a 7.6-mile stretch of Interstate 15 near San Diego. GM and Honda are using
small magnets embedded in the road to steer their cars. Toyota is also
using this technique, along with a computer-vision centerline follower
to steer its cars. The Toyota approach will work on any road with a reasonably
visible centerline. It is anticipated that autonomous vehicles will first
be used in HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lanes. Autonomous vehicles entering
these lanes will be electronically checked for operational integrity before
being allowed to drive autonomously. The timetable for widespread introduction
of autonomous vehicles is of the order of 20 years.
I suspect that this timetable will be influenced
by how rapidly autonomous highways are adopted 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. That way, if there were accidents or problems,
no one could be hurt.)
(12) Printers, Scanners, Color Fax Machines, and Color Copiers
High quality, low cost multipurpose color printer/scanner/fax/copiers have
opened the door to what is, perhaps, the last chapter in the home use of
these devices. Improvements that might still be made in them might take
the form of lower prices, higher fax resolution and color depth, water-resistant
inks, photo-realistic color, and special effects kits (such as gold and
silver printing, plain-paper printing, or six-color printing). However,
in a few more years, they will probably set the standard for new hard copy
devices for computers.
(13) Removable Disk Drives
With disk capacities climbing into the gigabyte range, something must be
chosen to replace the floppy drive, but at this time, it isn’t clear to
me what that will be. So far, Zip, Jaz and tape drives have gotten the
nod for hard disk backup. However, at $100 a gigabyte, the removable media
are as expensive as an external disk drive. 120-MB floppy disk drives are
available but they cost as much as Zip drives, as do their floppy media.
The most practical removable disk medium would seem to be a write-once
or rewritable CD drive. Writable CD disks are relatively cheap and store
650 megabytes of data. Every computer has a CD drive. However, greedy squabbles
have characterized the DVD market and it’s debatable when DVDs will finally
become standardized and popular. It’s hard to forecast what might happen
(14) Video/Digital Cameras
Prices of bottom-of-the-line color video cameras are expected to drop as
low as $30 by the end of 1998, with respectable color cameras available
for about $60. (First-generation QuickCam Color Cameras dropped in price
from $230 in the spring of 1996 to $100 by the end of 1997.) However, competing
standards, lack of proper Internet hubs, severe bandwidth limitations,
and the fact that the people with whom we want to videoconference aren’t
equipped for video has kept videoconferencing from widespread use. Perhaps
in the 1999-2000 time frame, videoconferencing will finally make it into
prime time. "Talking head" video conferencing is said to be tolerably good
over voice-grade phone lines. One of the problems is that of simultaneously
carrying both audio and video over voice-grade lines with such a narrow
bandwidth. If we ever get wide-band line service at voice-grade prices,
videoconferencing may take off.
Digital cameras have been expensive, with low resolution.
In addition, they need to be viewed on a computer and/or printed out on
a color printer. As previously mentioned, color printers are becoming photo-print
capable and cheap. Also, digital camera price/performance ratios are improving
rapidly. Umax has just introduced a $400 camera that delivers 1,024 X 768
resolution. It will probably be several years yet before digital cameras
begin to crowd out conventional film cameras, but with the advent of low-cost,
high-quality color printers, it will probably happen. Simple semiconductor
technology extrapolations would suggest that 2,048 X 1,536-pixel $400 digital
cameras might be available by 2001, and 4,096 X 3,072-pixel $400 cameras
might appear in 2004. The 2,048 X 1,536 camera in 2001 would provide 7"
by 5" 300-dot-per-inch prints and might render such a camera quite attractive.
A Year-2000 1,024 X 1,280 $200 camera would yield 4" X 3" prints and might
sell well. In summary, digital cameras are coming but are not quite here
yet. (There is also the problem of rapid technological obsolescence.)
And Looking Still Farther Ahead…
As previously mentioned, the Semiconductor Industry
Association has an unpublished technology roadmap through 2022. As currently
envisioned, circuit design rules will diminish to 0.05 m
There is evidence that materials still exhibit bulk
properties down to 0.03 m. If that can be stretched
to 0.02 m‘s, then conventional semiconductor
progress might continue to follow Moore’s Law through 2022, with computer
price/performance ratios halving every 18 months.
If so, then by 2022, your bargain-sale desktop computer
will be equipped with 2 to 4 terabytes (2 to 4 million megabytes) of RAM
and will run at a speed of 20 to 30 trillion operations per second or about
100,000 times that of a 166-MHz MMx Pentium. This hardware capacity should
be sufficient to support human-level intelligence at a readily affordable
cost. However, as mentioned in item 4 above, near-human intelligence may
be reached with the aid of specialized digital signal processors well before
2022. The biggest obstacle here is probably that of software.
Even if circuit shrinkage were to stop abruptly
in 2012, there should still be about six years worth of price/performance
improvements for RAM, as 256-gigabit RAM chips go into volume production.
This should reduce RAM prices to, perhaps, $200/terabyte by 2018. One more
round of shrinkage, (or die-size expansion) to permit 1 terabit RAM chips,
might reduce RAM prices to $50/terabyte by 2022. Of course, at some future
time, in all likelihood, the rate of semiconductor shrinkage will probably
slow from its current hectic pace but will probably not stop altogether.
Or, while transitioning to new technological approaches, the rate of progress
may slow for a year or two and then speed up again.
The use of multiple processors offers an alternative
approach to higher computer speeds when uniprocessor speeds finally peak
out. The ability to pack billions of transistors on a chip should make
it feasible to mount several microprocessors on one die. And of course,
several such CPU chips, each containing several microprocessors, are possible.
Costs would be somewhat higher than for single chip systems but not distressingly
so. Furthermore MMx instructions can run several times as fast as the main
desktop processor for those types of calculations at which they excel.
How far can these ponies run? If by 2025, we reach
the $20/terabyte-of-RAM, 40¢/terabyte-of-disk, hundred-terops speed
range, then from a hardware standpoint, we ought to be able, easily and
cheaply, to simulate human-class intelligence. This would probably be done
using mass-produced specialized hardware and software. However, this may
actually be achievable by the 2008-2010 time period, using special purpose
accelerators. The real problem is going to be software.
Appendices A, B, and C will be transmitted later under