The world of computing is reaching some human limits. My fingers cannot get smaller, my eyeballs cannot see smaller, I cannot speak with more clarity. The limitations of technology are the limitations of human interaction with technology. Steve Jobs has introduced a very thin laptop – I think he called it the Mac Air. It is great – but it has limitations.
In 1972 I was working on an IBM 370, model 145. The actual computer was about six feet tall, three feet wide, and about ten feet long. The computing power was less than my present day cell phone. The ‘mainframe 370’ was housed in a forty foot by forty foot environmentally controlled room. The need for all that space was related to the ‘peripheral equipment.’ That means the devices used for input, output, and storage. Card readers, key-punch machines, high speed printers, and bulky tape and disk drives whirred and clattered in an attempt to communicate with humans.
The problem with size has always related to the human ability to enter and retrieve information. Steve Jobs has made a valiant attempt at a light weight and thin computer. The new Jobs effort is necessarily limited in communication ports – those plugins to other devices. There is no DVD or CD drive. The software can manage any external device on the market – but connectivity is the problem.
This is not to fault Apple, Inc. or Steve Jobs, or the engineers who crafted this remarkable laptop. The real innovation will be in some revolutionary form of human connectivity with technology. I don’t know what that will be.