It’s sort of difficult to figure out what tech is going to be like in a hundred years. Texas Instruments rolled out the first transistor radio in 1954, and then a handheld calculator in 1967. For some odd reason, I remember my dad buying a calculator, probably in the early seventies, and as I recall it was about $150 and came in a leatherette case. It was quite entertaining adding up numbers, and subtracting and stuff, and having the right answers appear in red LED numbers on the screen. Further, Twisted Transistors wouldn’t show up until 2005. Korny, I know.
bOur own Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt employed a few thousand employees to control the IBM System/360 Model 75s mainframe computers for the Apollo space missions. At $3.5 million apiece, and each one the size of a car, each 75s could perform several hundred thousand addition operations per second. These computers controlled everything about the spacecraft, from the flight and navigation to all the environmental systems that kept the astronauts alive. Those programs were the most complex that had ever been developed.
These days, to get that kind of computing power would require at least a simple USB stick. I think the best comparison states that a smartphone’s clock is almost 33,000 times faster than the best Apollo era computers. Another great comparison is that a modern day smartphone might be able to guide 120,000,000 Apollo era spacecraft to the moon, all at the same time. These technological advances came about in just fifty years. So what’s next?
Things like ingestible technology will probably advise on medical conditions and will have the ability to signal us when we require service. “I’ve got to go, honey. My EKG light is on.” Embedded tech might be able to trigger our environment to tailor our surroundings to our liking. Imagine triggering a Nest thermostat that you’re home and it should crank up the heat? No telling what it would do when the embedded sensor in my wife’s arm asks it why it’s so hot in the house.
My tech would unlock the front door as I approach. It would control the lighting in the room, including what color back-lighting I like around the television or in the tray ceilings or soffits. It would automatically change my television guide to just the three channels I watch. It would lock out my woodshop equipment for safety purposes. My music would automatically follow me through the house providing background music like a movie soundtrack. Best of all, it would sense when I got close enough to my house that my semi-autonomous car would signal the garage door to open, quickly, like when the road barrier drops at the entrance to the Batcave, allowing the Batmobile to approach at full speed.
And my house would just be super-smart. I won’t have to go looking for my laptop. I can just wave my arm in a certain direction and a projection will appear in whatever direction I happen to be looking. I’ll point my finger at things, and menus will make stuff happen. I’ll just think, “I’d really like pizza for dinner tonight,” and a little robot will visit my front door with a hot pie.
Now if I can just find that ingestible robot pill that will keep me healthy for the next fifty years, I’ll get to see if I’m right.