The Future of Information Technology in Education
An ISTE Publication


<<< Chapter 5


Chapter 7 >>>


Chapter 6
The Information Technology Industry


  •    The previous chapter included a section discussing Nicholas Negroponte, one of the world's leading visionaries for electronic technologies. His 1995 book, Being Digital, explores how the world will change as more and more information is digitized (represented using 0s and 1s) and as the power of the information processing and telecommunication systems continues to grow. A number of his predictions discuss major changes that will occur in the way that business is conducted. We are already beginning to see this, as the Web emerges as a powerful aid to business.

       The following brief news item presents one obvious advantage of digitized information. When digital information is being sold, delivery can be both inexpensive and fast. There is no use of a transportation system or delivery people.

    Egghead Moves Software Sales to the Internet


    • Egghead Inc. has become the first major software retailer to deliver its computer programs directly to the customer via the Internet. A number of Internet sites sell software online, but the product is then boxed up and shipped to the buyer by mail. Egghead's move is the first of several pilot projects backed by Microsoft to bolster the ability of traditional retailers to compete with software companies that distribute their products directly via the Net. Analysts predict that online distribution will account for 20% of retail software sales by the end of next year.


      Wall Street Journal. (1996, November 8). p. B6.

       All print materials can be digitized. All film, audio tapes, and video tapes can be digitized. All photographs can be digitized. A substantial amount of "how to" information-for example, how to use a machine tool to manufacture a particular part, or how to solve a particular type of math or science problem-can be digitized.

       The digitization of books, videos, and other static information produces second-order effects. A digitized book can be shipped across the country faster than a hard copy of the book. It does not go out-of-print because of the economics of printing presses. Progress in Artificial Intelligence has produced systems that can read digitized text out loud. Thus, a sight-impaired person can now gain access to any textual materials that have been digitized.

       For still another example of a second-order effect, consider the "how to" books. The computerization of "how to" information adds a new dimension to a book. A computerized machine tool can store instructions for how to make a particular item, and it can make it. A computerized mathematics package can store information about how to solve various types of math problems, and it can solve the problems. A computer-driven laboratory instrument can both gather and analyze data-and then make changes to what information is being gathered and how it is being processed, in order to better accomplish its assigned task.

       The trend toward digitization can be considered to be a megatrend (see Appendix). It is now in full swing, and it certainly will continue. As the next section in this chapter suggest, we are only at the beginning of this digitization megatrend.

Ubiquitous Computing

  •    Researchers at the Palo Alto Research Center of Xerox Corporation are working on a variety of computer/communication systems which will be built into hundreds of different items. This research group envisions well over a hundred such computer/communication devices in a typical room of a typical house. They have coined the phrase ubiquitous computing to refer to this idea (Scientific American, 1995, pp. 78-89).

       For example, imagine a small and inexpensive transceiver that stores some digital information, broadcasts it when directed to do so, and can be built into almost anything. It could be built into a name badge or identification card (this is now being done), print books, and your key case and billfold. If you are looking for a particular book in your house, you ask your main computer system to find it. Your computer system broadcasts a message to the book's transceiver. Your computer system uses triangulation information from several receivers placed throughout the house to pinpoint the location of the book. It also receives a brief description of the book's contents and displays it for you.

       Bill Gates, co-founder and currently chairman of Microsoft, Inc., has received a lot of publicity for the $50 million house he is having built. One of the features of this house is that visitors will receive a transceiver name badge that contains information abut their personal interests in music and art. As a visitor enters a room, the sound system and television system will play music and display artwork aligned with the visitor's interests.

       The Xerox PARC researchers are studying three different categories of computer/communication devices that will likely be part of ubiquitous computing: tabs, pads, and boards. Tabs are small-they can easily be built into a name badge or the spine of a book. Pads are roughly the size of a pad of notebook paper. They are used for writing and displaying notes-as scratch pads, and for doodling. Boards are large-like a white board or blackboard, for interaction with a roomful of people.

       Many other companies are working on products that will contribute to ubiquitous computing. The "smartcard" provides a good example of major changes we can expect as ubiquitous computing occurs. A credit card-sized computer can contain a microprocessor, memory, and programs.

    Motorola-Getting Smarter All the Time


    • Motorola is planning to increase its smartcard production capacity ten-fold over the next few years: "Motorola will have the capacity to produce 10 million smartcard microchips per week by the year 2000," says the company's smartcard operations manager. The cards increasingly will be used for such things as social security payments, driver's licenses, passports and credit-card-type transactions. "A significant portion" of Motorola's $2.5 billion investment in semiconductor facilities this year is going toward smartcard production.


      Investor's Business Daily. (1995, October 25). p. A17.

    Smartcards at the 1996 Olympics


    • In Atlanta, BellSouth says that prior to this year's Summer Olympics it will install 200 phones that accept "smartcards" that store monetary values from which the cost of telephone calls can be automatically deducted. Someday soon, consumers will be able to use the phones like an automated teller machine-withdrawing money from a bank or credit card account and storing it on a smartcard.


      Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (1996, February 20). p. E1

       The first news item indicated that Motorola is betting big on the future of the smartcard. Many other companies are doing likewise. Note that Motorola's planned level of productivity-about 520 million smartcards a year-is roughly equivalent to one smartcard for each ten people on earth.

       The second news item indicates that a telephone can be modified to provide connectivity between a smartcard and the computer systems of the world. It will become commonplace for people to carry smartcards and other very small computers, and to make routine use of them.

A Media Merger

  •    The fields of telecommunications, electronic entertainment (including television and interactive games), and computers are rapidly coming together. We see this in business mergers and we see it in products that are coming to market.
    Papers Move Online


    • The number of North American papers available through online services nearly tripled last year to about 175, and is expected to double again this year. About 600 other newspapers published outside North American are also available online, according to the Newspaper Association of America.


      Toronto Sun. (1996, February 14). p. 35.

       Note that although the number of online newspapers is a very small percentage of all newspapers, we are likely witnessing the start of a major trend. Notice also that this is happening in many countries-not just in the United States.

       A similar trend is occurring for magazines and for research journals. Each publisher is faced by what to publish in hard copy, what to publish on CD-ROMs or DVD-ROMs, and what to publish electronically. It is clear that hard copy will not disappear overnight. However, we are seeing rapid growth in online publications. This is now a megatrend, and continued rapid growth in online publication can be expected.

    Compaq, Thomson to Build PC-TV


    • Compaq Computer and Thomson Consumer Electronics are teaming up to produce devices that combine the functions of PCs and televisions, and plan to have their first products out in a year or so. Compaq is the biggest PC seller, and Thomson is the largest U.S. maker of TV sets. "What we have is two big companies smelling a market and trying to figure out how to reach it," says the president of a New York technology research firm. "Digital electronics is moving very rapidly into the consumer space and it's very clear there will be TV-PCs or PC-TVs in many forms. What's less clear is who will sell them and where will they go in the house. There's a lot of market research to be done."

      Investor's Business Daily.

      (1996, May 23). p. A3.

    Net Effect


    • A study by the Cambridge (U.K.)-based consulting group Analysys says that the Net is a disruptive technology that will force the convergence of telecommunications, information technology, publishing and broadcasting, and that it has "usurped elegantly engineered plans for expensive networks put forward by the telecoms operators to become the focus of development and innovation for advanced services." The study characterizes the Net as a miniature model of the communications industry in the next century.


      Financial Times. (1996, March 5). p. 11.

    Will Computers Replace TVs?


    • MIT Media Center Director Nicholas Negroponte says he's decided computers are going to replace TVs because "for the past five years, people who build TV sets have been putting more and more computation into their TVs, and people who build personal computers have been putting more and more video into their personal computers. When these two industrial trends converge, there will be no distinction between the two … In the future, we won't be pushing bits at people like we're doing today. It doesn't matter whether you call the receiver a TV or a PC. What's going to change is how those bits are delivered."


      Wired. (1995, November). p. 146.

Growth of the Electronics Industry

  •    The electronics industry is now quite large and it is continuing to grow quite rapidly.

    Silicon Famine


    • Analysts at Dataquest and Rose Associates are predicting a shortage of silicon wafers used to manufacture microprocessing chips that will hamper chip makers' ability to meet demands for the next few years. According to Dataquest estimates, the silicon drought could last into the next century, at least for the 200-millimeter size wafer. The problem arises from the non-stop demand since 1990-historically up until then, demand had slackened every three years or so, giving silicon suppliers a chance to catch up. But with chip output rising to record levels over the past few years, "the whole food chain is stretched right to a thin hair," says the president of Rose Associates.


      Business Week. (1996, March 25). p. 82.

       The following two brief news items appeared earlier in this book. They suggest that the impending silicone shortage will be overcome and that continued rapid growth will occur in the electronics industry.

    Chip Sales Up 40%


    • Revenue from sales of semiconductors rose 40% last year, to $154.7 billion, according to preliminary results compiled for a new study by Dataquest. North American chip makers' lead over Japanese competitors narrowed to 0.3%, down from 1.2% last year-with North American suppliers claiming 39.8% of the market to Japan's 39.5%. Dataquest predicts healthy sales in the future, fueled by global demand for PCs and corporate networks, and estimates chip sales will top $300 billion by the year 2000.


      Wall Street Journal. (1996, January 9). p. B2.

    Growth in the Electronics Industry


    • Vladi Catto, chief economist at Texas Instruments Inc., says the industry might expand by 20% a year for the next two decades. By comparison, since TI made the world's first microchip 36 years ago, the industry has averaged 15% annual gains.


      Business Week. (1996, January 8). p. 95.

       The first of the previous two news items contains baseline data-where we are now. The second is a forecast of yearly growth in the electronics industry at an even higher rate than we have averaged over the past three decades. A 20% annual rate of growth, sustained over a period of years, produces astoundingly large numbers.

       The table given in Figure 6.1 projects a more conservative growth rate of 15% a year. This would be a continuation of the yearly growth rate of the past 36 years, and is considerably less than the forecast provided by Vladi Catto. In addition, the table is extended for only 15 years from 1995. Predictions based on continued compound growth rates far into the future are highly suspect. However, they are interesting to look at and speculate about.

    Figure 6.1. Projected growth of the semiconductor industry.

       In Figure 6.1 we have started with the 1995 baseline data. In the second column, we have then projected a 15% a year annual growth for the next 15 years. The third column is a rough estimate of the world's population, with an estimated 1.5% annual rate of growth. The fourth column is an estimate of yearly dollars of production of semiconductors per person on earth.

       All of the dollar amounts in Figure 6.1 are in 1995 dollars. Thus, the $167.81 per person amount in the year 2010 is roughly a tenth of the cost of a medium-priced microcomputer. However, a medium-priced microcomputer in the year 2010 will be at least 100 times as fast as the 1995 microcomputer. The net effect is that the amount of computing power being produced in the year 2010 will likely be the equivalent of 10 medium-priced vintage 1995 microcomputers-for every person on earth!

The Telecommunications Industry

  •    The telecommunications industry makes use of two basic modes of delivering bits of information: land lines, and electronic broadcasts. Examples of land lines include the "twisted pair" copper wires that come into many homes, coaxial cables, and fiber optics. Examples of electronic broadcasts include cellular telephones, microwave transmission systems, and earth-orbiting satellites. The two basic modes of delivering bits of information are often combined in a communications system.
    AT&T Unveils Wireless Link to Long-Distance Network


    • AT&T has developed what it calls the "communications medium for the 21st century"-a wireless system that bypasses the local phone network to link residential and business phones directly to the company's long-distance network. The system, which operates via a small transceiver attached to the side of a house or building, provides at least two phone lines and data transmission at twice the speed available over Bell company lines. "When we call this a breakthrough, we're placing it in the same category as satellite and fiber-optic transmission and electronic switching," says AT&T President John Walter. The company claims its new system, nicknamed Project Angel during the development phase, will beat regular wired service in call quality and error-free data transmission.


      Wall Street Journal. (1997, February 26).

       One way to think about the two general categories of connectivity is that the amount of broadcast capacity is relatively limited while the amount of land line capacity is essentially unlimited. The physics of broadcasting-there are a limited number of frequencies-provides bounds to growth in broadcast capacity. However, more and more fiber optics can be produced and installed, and still use up only a small part of the physical space available on earth.

       To put this into perspective, we are used to the idea of individual telephone lines being readily available at home and work. You can pick up a telephone and direct dial to well over a billion telephones located throughout the world. Although the quality of the connection varies, chances are that the connection will be good enough to carry on a conversation or to transmit electronic bits of information at perhaps 14,400 or 28,800 bits per second or more. Thus, you can send fax or e-mail messages.

       The bandwidth of this "telephone conversation" level of connectivity is adequate for some tasks, but totally inadequate for others. For example, a computer screen size color photograph that is digitized and stored in a computer might require about 5 million bits of storage. To transmit this picture on a 28,800 bits per second line would take about three minutes. A video consisting of 24 frames per second would require more than an hour of such transmission for each second of full-motion video.

       This problem has been approached in two distinct ways. First, it is possible to "compress" a digitized picture into a greatly reduced number of bits. Using sophisticated mathematical techniques, it is possible to achieve a compression ratio of about 100 to 1. This means that the picture can be sent 100 times as fast, provided one has appropriate software and computing power at the sending and receiving stations. (With a 100 to 1 compression ratio, one hour of video is approximately 5 gigabits-that is, 5,000,000,000 bits.)

       Second, tremendous progress has occurred in making better use of the "twisted pair" of copper wires used in telephone systems. The following brief news item summarizes the progress.

    Speedy Modems


    • The new HotWire system from Paradyne Corp. uses an RADSL (rate adaptive digital subscriber line) modem that can send data at speeds up to 2 million bits per second, making it possible to send video over ordinary telephone lines. The technology is more than 15 times faster than conventional ISDN (integrated services digital network) lines.


      Tampa Tribune. (1996, September 21). pp. B&F1.

       The combination of data compression and the new type of modem mentioned above means that pictures can be sent over ordinary telephone lines perhaps 5,000-10,000 times as fast as is suggested by our first calculations. This is fast enough to send television-quality video in real time over an ordinary telephone line.

       A second approach to providing high bandwidth connectivity to people's homes is to use the cable television system. (Note that the "hundreds of times faster than ordinary telephone lines" speed mentioned in the following news item is a comparison with a 28,800 bits per second modem-not the much faster modem analyzed above. Clearly, there is an interesting competition shaping up between the cable industry and the telephone industry.)

    Motorola's Million Cable Modems


    • Motorola is shipping the first of a million cable modems ordered by cable companies such as Time Warner, TCI and Comcast, among others. Cable operators plan to charge between $25 and $40 a month for online access at speeds hundreds of times faster than ordinary phone lines. Critics have cited problems with cable modem technology, including electrical "noise," limitations on two-way transmissions, and potential user overload, but a Motorola VP says, "Bullfeathers, this stuff works and it's in homes."


      Wall Street Journal. (1996, April 29). p. B7.

    Australian Cable Company Has It All


    • Optus Vision, the partly owned cable subsidiary of Australia's No. 2 long-distance company, is now able to offer television, telephone and high-speed data services through a single network-long the goal of the U.S. cable industry. "The U.S. has taken longer than everybody thought," says a Motorola general manager, who notes that U.S. cable operators have delayed their all-in-one systems because of the daunting task of upgrading older plants and equipment to provide telephony and two-way data links. Optus was able to build its network from scratch.


      Wall Street Journal. (1996, June 28). p. B4.

       A third approach to high bandwidth connectivity into homes and other places is use of fiber optics. Fiber is now cheap enough so that many new homes are built with fiber connectivity rather than the traditional twisted pair of copper wires. Currently available fiber optics have more than a thousand times the bandwidth of the twisted pair of copper wires used by the telephone companies. Moreover, this technology is also making rapid progress.

    A Trillion Bits Per Second


    • Three separate groups of researchers have succeeded for the first time in transmitting information at a rate of one trillion bits per second-a terabit-through an optical cable. Fujitsu, Nippon Telephone and Telegraph, and a team from AT&T Research and Lucent Technologies reached the terabit threshold four years earlier than expected.


      Communications of the ACM. (1996, May). p. 11.

       A speed of one trillion bits per second is 400 times the speed of the fastest commercial optical fiber systems currently in use. Using the types of data compression ratios that are often used to store and transmit video, such a speed means that two hours of video could be transmitted in 1/25 of a second over a single fiber. A typical fiber optic "cable" contains from a dozen to several hundred fibers.

       A fourth approach to high bandwidth connectivity into homes and other places is use of satellites and earth-based digital broadcast systems. The next decade will bring us the satellite system discussed in the following brief news item.

    Motorola's M-Star Reaches for the Sky


    • Motorola has a new $6.1-billion satellite project on the drawing board, comprising 72 low-orbit satellites capable of transmitting voice, video and data worldwide. The M-Star project is separate from Motorola's Iridium project, in which it's a 30% owner. M-Star is expected to take four years to complete from the time it receives FCC approval and lines up investors. The network will offer speeds of up to one gigabit for satellite-to-satellite laser communications and 155 megabits for satellite-to-earth transmissions.


      Wall Street Journal. (1996, October 14). p. B4.

    Teledesic Gets Approval From FCC


    • Teledesic, the privately owned company owned by Craig McCaw and Bill Gates, has won FCC approval to proceed with its plans to launch an 840-satellite computer network. In 1990, Teledesic's plan was to use an orbiting grid of satellites to send data around the world, but the current plan is to provide high-speed computer access by transmitting from a rooftop antenna to the satellites in orbit. The Boeing Corporation could play a big part in building or launching the satellites, and other companies are also likely to help underwrite the $9-billion project.


      Seattle Times. (1997, March 15).

       On a worldwide basis, there are a number of companies in the process of developing orbiting satellite systems. In early 1997 there were about 150 commercial satellites in orbit. Plans had been developed for orbiting an additional 1,700 such satellites during the next decade. These will serve a variety of communications purposes. One goal is to make possible portable telephone and Internet service from every place on earth via satellites.

Hardware Technology Specifics

  •    It is relatively easy to predict a number of characteristics of the computer hardware that will be commercially available about 5 years from now. That is because it takes about 5 years to move a chip from pilot production to large scale production. Predictions up to 10 years are reasonably good if done by those who have intimate knowledge of the leading edge research frontiers. That is because it takes about 10 years to move from this leading edge research through pilot production and into mass production of the chips.

       With this type of background, we can examine quotes such as the following:

    Chip Wars Continue


    • Texas Instruments says it will begin manufacturing a chip next year that will be 20 times more powerful than today's Pentium Pro chip from Intel. The new chips will be used in automatic teller machines that can recognize a user's face, wristwatch PCs, or laptop computers with longer memory life. TI's TImeline chip-making process will pack 125-million transistors onto a single chip, beating LSI Logic's prediction that it soon will make a 49-million transistor chip. "What they announced is no different from where every semiconductor company is headed toward," says an industry analyst. "The question is, is there some reason to believe they can do it faster than their competitors?"


      St. Petersburg Times. (1996, June 3). p. 8.

    New Process Yields Sturdier, Faster Chips


    • Engineers at the University of Illinois have discovered that a simple substitution in the computer chip manufacturing process could increase chips' lifespan by 10 to 50 times, or alternatively, allow them to operate at faster speeds. By treating a chip with deuterium instead of hydrogen in the final stage of the manufacturing process, the resulting product is better able to weather the battering it takes from the electrons that store and transmit messages. "The tantalizing thing will be to use the trade-off between lifespan and performance to make the chip work even faster," says one researcher, who estimates the substitution process would add only about $1.50 to the cost of a wafer of chips.


      Investor's Business Daily. (1996, February 15) p. A9.

    Scalpel Technology Packs More Power on a Chip


    • Bell Labs researchers have come up with a way to use electron beams to imprint microchips, inscribing four times more features onto a chip than today's standards. The electron beam machine, dubbed Scalpel, will enable the chip industry "to continue the success that it's had over the past decades of reducing the size of the chip every couple of years. It looked like with conventional optical lithography techniques that they'd run out of gas sometime around the end of the century," says the head of Bell Labs' advanced lithography research unit. "Electron beams have been around for a long time. But in terms of writing chips on wafers they were slow so nobody used them commercially … So what we've done with Scalpel is figure out a way to … make an electron beam printing technique that isn't slow and will have the ability to imprint smaller and smaller features."


      Investor's Business Daily. (1996, August 13). p. A8.

    Cookie-Cutter Microchips


    • While other researchers are experimenting with X-ray lithography for etching minute lines onto silicon wafers, a professor at the University of Minnesota has developed a way to stamp ultra thin lines on microchips "almost like they were cookies." Stephen Chou's research team recently was able to imprint wafers with lines just 0.025 microns wide, and Chou's "quite confident" that they can get down to 0.01-micron lines-"maybe even smaller."


      Business Week. (1996, May 6). p. 95.

       If the "Cookie-Cutter Microchips" forecast proves to be correct, this will be an astounding breakthrough. Current state-of-the-art chip factories are able to imprint wafers with lines that are 0.25 to 0.35 microns in width. A factor of 10 decrease in line width means a factor of 100 increase in the number of transistors that will fit on a given sized chip.

       At the current time, South Korea leads the world in the production of computer memory chips. However, many other companies are competing in this market. One news items talks about a billion bit memory chip, while the other talks about a four billion bit chip. Today's medium-priced microcomputer typically comes with about 16 megabytes of chip memory. One of the gigabit chips has eight times this capacity, and one of the 4-gigabit chips will have 32 times this capacity.

    Computer Memory Chips


    • South Korea's Samsung Electronics says it's the first company in the world to develop a prototype circuit design for the 1-gigabit direct random access memory (dram) chip for use in multimedia applications. The new chip will be able to store up to 15 minutes of moving pictures and the equivalent of 8,000 newspaper pages.


      Financial Times. (1995, December 12). p. 1.

    Four Gigabit Memory Chip


    • NEC is developing a 4 gigabit memory chip; it will store 47 minutes of full-motion video, or 256 times the capacity of the 16-megabit DRAM chip now commonly used. NEC says it will begin selling the chip around 2000.


      New York Times. (1997, February 7).

       There is a huge and rapidly growing worldwide demand for computer memory chips. Samsung and NEC are but two of the many companies that are investing in the research and in the manufacturing capacity needed to meet this steadily growing demand.

       Worldwide construction of chip manufacturing plants during the 2-year period 1995-96 was approximately the same as the number of plants constructed in the previous 10 years. As suggested in the following quote, the costs are staggering.

    Costs of Chip Factories


    • From about $550,000 25 years ago, the price of a megabyte of semiconductor memory has declined to just about $38 today. But, during the same period, the cost of building a factory to manufacture such memory chips has risen from less to $4 million to a little more than $1.2 billion, putting the business beyond the reach of all but a few very large firms.


      Scientific American. (1996, January). p. 54.

       Note that the article containing the above information was written just before a massive decline occurred in the sales price of memory chips. (The price decline has been attributed to an oversupply.) At the time this book was being written, chip memory was selling for less than $10 per megabyte.

    Smaller Chips, Bigger Prices


    • As the projected costs skyrocket for sophisticated chip fabs capable of cranking out system-chips equipped with more than 100 million transistors, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore points out that chip making already is the world's "most expensive real estate speculation." Currently, turning wafers into microprocessors costs $1 billion per acre of silicon. The cost for wafer-fabrication plants capable of manufacturing super chips with 0.07-micron transistors could run as high as $10 billion, he warns.


      Business Week. (1996, December 9). p. 148.

    IBM to Build Ultrasupercomputer


    • IBM has signed a $94-million contract with the U.S. government to build an ultrasupercomputer-capable of handling 3-trillion operations per second and retaining 2.5-trillion bytes of memory. Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary calls the DOE Option Blue a "dramatic leapfrog" over existing technologies. Option Blue's main job will be to simulate the performance and deterioration of the nation's stockpile of nuclear weapons, a function that once required actual underground testing. The U.S. is now observing a moratorium on such testing, and will rely on electronic modeling instead. Option Blue is the second machine ordered by the Energy Department for use in simulated weapons testing-Option Red, a smaller machine capable of handling 1.5-trillion operations per second, was ordered from Intel Corp. last year and will be installed at the Department's Sandia National Laboratory in December.


      St. Petersburg Times. (1996, July 27). p. E2.

    DOE's Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative


    • The reduction of the arms race is causing a computer race, as the U.S. Department of Energy steps up the pace of developing high-performance computers. "In this program, we have to work with the computer industry to compress the length of time between … generations of computers," says the DOE deputy assistant secretary for strategic computing and simulation. The high-powered machines are needed to perform the complex calculations that are used to assess factors such as the impact of aging on weapons and their ability to perform. The DOE says it will need supercomputers capable of performing at least 100 trillion operations per second by the year 2004. To accelerate the process, the agency has established the Academic Strategic Alliances Program to create and fund university "centers of excellence."


      Science News. (1997, January 4). p. 7.

       It is clear that the worldwide electronics industry is "betting big" on the future of information technology. The electronics industry is sufficiently confident in the forecasts for continued rapid growth that it is willing to invest many billions of dollars each year.

Secondary Storage

  •    The past few years have seen a very rapid drop in the cost of secondary storage. Many medium-priced microcomputers now come with a gigabyte hard disk drive. In terms of storing pure print materials (no pictures), a gigabyte is approximately 1,000 books. The future will see continued rapid progress in developing ever larger and more cost effective secondary storage devices.
    IBM Develops Hefty Hard Drive


    • IBM has developed a computer hard-disk drive capable of storing five billion bits per square inch, or three times as much as the most advanced systems it currently sells. The new drives won't reach the consumer market for several years. IBM expects that it will reach the 10-billion bits per square inch level by the end of the decade.


      New York Times. (1996, December 31). p. C4.

    TeraStor Technology Boosts Storage Capacity


    • New technology from TeraStor Corporation could be a major breakthrough for the computer storage industry, say analysts. The company's "near field recording technology" is a hybrid of magnetic storage systems found in most PCs and the laser-based optical storage more common to compact disks. TeraStor's founder predicts that by next year, the new technology will be used to create a disk that holds 20 gigabytes of information on each side, 10 times the capacity of a single disk today.


      Wall Street Journal. (1997, March 3).

    Holographic Data Storage


    • Scientists are on the verge of a new dimension in data storage-holography. Companies such as Rockwell, IBM and GTE are expanding their efforts to develop holographic memories that can store hundreds of billions of bytes of data in a crystal about the size of a sugar cube. The devices initially will be used for a handful of specialized applications that require extraordinary capacity and speed, such as fingerprint ID systems. But when the technology matures and becomes less expensive, it could easily show up as a high-capacity digital storage medium for general purpose computing.


      Scientific American. (1995, November). p. 70.

Display Technology

  •    Computer display technology is continuing to improve. At the current time, the TV-type display still dominates the market. Such cathode ray tube (CRT) technology predates the development of television in the mid-1930s.
    HP, Compaq to Invest in Flat Panel Start-Up


    • Hewlett-Packard and Compaq Computer are among 27 investors in a Silicon Valley start-up that plans to manufacture a prototype of a flat-panel display with full-motion color capabilities. Silicon Video's display measures 1/4-inch thick and uses cathode-ray tube technology. The company expects to have the prototype ready within a year.


      Wall Street Journal. (1996, May 14). p. B6.

    Flat PC Screens Head for the Desktop


    • Liquid crystal display screens currently cost about five times that of a similarly-sized cathode ray tube screen, but that should be changing over the next couple of years, say LCD makers. Next year, major LCD vendors expect to halve the difference, bringing prices down to two-and-a-half times that of CRTs. Analysts say when the difference comes down to that point, the desktop replacement market could really take off. "CRT replacement is inevitable, it's just that in the near term there are a lot of hurdles," says an analyst at Stanford Resources. "The place where it makes the most sense are with large-screen LCDs." NEC recently unveiled a 20-inch high-resolution LCD screen with wide-angle viewing designed as a "CRT-killer" according to a NEC engineer.


      Investor's Business Daily. (1996, May 23). p. A8.

    New Display Technology From Xerox


    • Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center has unveiled a new display technology that manages to cram 7 million pixels onto a 13-inch screen using active matrix technology. That's more than three times the number of pixels in today's state-of-the-art displays, and offers 15 to 30 times the resolution available on current laptops. The screens are expensive-$15,000 apiece, say analysts-and Xerox has decided to pursue niche marketing, such as commercial aviation and medicine, in an effort to establish a customer base and get the price down.


      Wall Street Journal. (1996, March 11). p. B6.

    A Foldable Computer Display


    • … But Asai fears that Japan is now saddled with a tradition-bound university system, a conformist culture, and an attack of complacency…. What Asai can do to help Japan is focus Hatachi on its most promising technologies. Some of his favorites: light emitting polymers that could form the basis of a home computer display that could be folded and carried as easily as a rubber mat and act as a PC, newspaper, and VCR. Asai would like to see Hitachi take all the work out of using computers by adding voice-recognition software and "intelligent agents" programmed to roam the Internet and retrieve information.


      Business Week. (1994, November 18). p. 103.


  •    As personal computers get both faster and have more memory, there is a steadily increasing amount of computing power available to devote to software. Here are five important software trends:


    • Computer systems will continue to become more "user friendly." A user friendly system is easy to use, easy to learn how to use, and forgiving of mistakes.


    • Continued movement toward seamlessness among various software tools. That is, information is increasingly easily passed between and/or shared among various computer applications. From the point of view of the user, the various computer applications such as word processor, database, spreadsheet, and so on will gradually merge into a single application.


    • Steadily improving agent technology-artificially intelligent "agents" that can help a person to solve problems and accomplish tasks. An agent can sort your e-mail, throwing away pieces (junk mail) that you don't care to even open. An agent can browse the Web, looking for newly published information on topics of your choice.


    • A strong movement toward "learner centered" software. A learner builds on previous knowledge and skills. Learners differ. Software developers are beginning to understand that the human-computer interface must fit the learner's needs. Thus, it must adjust to (accommodate) the various knowledge and skills that different learners bring to the task. We can expect to see significant progress in this in the coming years.


    • Object-oriented programming (object-oriented software) will continue to grow in importance. The following quote from Steve Jobs summarizes this situation.
    Steve Jobs: Object-Oriented Software


    • Once you understand objects, its clear that all software will eventually be written using objects. Again, you can argue about how many years it will take, and who the winners and losers will be during this transition, but you can't argue about the inevitably of this transition.

      Objects are just going to be the way all software is going to be written in five years or-pick a time. It's so compelling. It's so obvious. It's so much better that it's just going to happen.


      Wired. (1996, February). p. 102.

Miscellaneous Other

  • This section contains a number of brief news items that do not fit well into the other categories used in this chapter. Each gives a hint of things to come.

    Deep Blue Falls to Kasparov


    • World chess champion Garry Kasparov has won the six-game match against the IBM super computer called Deep Blue. Counting tie games as a half point each, the final score was Kasparov 4, Deep Blue 2. Kasparov will receive $400,000 for winning the match; the IBM team representing Deep Blue says it will put its $100,000 loser's award into more research.


      Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (1996, February 18). p. A1.

    Note: In a rematch that took place in May 1997, Deep Blue defeated Kasparov.

    Deep Blue Debriefing


    • IBM's Deep Blue computer was programmed to evaluate a total of about 20 billion moves within the three-minute window allotted for each move in a formal chess match. That capability is enough to consider every possible move and countermove 12 sequences ahead and selected lines of attack as much as 30 moves beyond that. The fact that this omniscience was not enough to beat a mere human is "amazing," says one of Deep Blue's programmers. The lesson here, says another, is that chess masters such as Kasparov "are doing some mysterious computation we can't figure out." Still, the IBM team got what it needed out of the match-their goal has always been research to show how parallel processing can be used for solving complex problems such as airline scheduling or drug design, not to be world chess champions. After all, this *is* IBM, says an IBM PR person.


      Scientific American. (1996, May). p. 16.

       Given a specific enough problem, computers can do very well. Deep Blue is a worthy competitor for the world chess champion. In terms of flexibility and ingenuity, however, humans are far better than machines. This will continue.

       The amount of computing power in Deep Blue will eventually become commonplace in medium-priced computers Thus, we need to consider what kinds of problems can be addressed by the routine use of so much computing power. For example, the type of computing power in Deep Blue can be applied to problems such as weather forecasting.

    Career Change for Deep Blue


    • Freshly laid off following its loss to Garry Kasparov as a chess opponent, IBM's Deep Blue computer has a new job-as a weather forecaster. Deep Blue will assume its new post this summer, providing up-to-the-minute weather updates to Atlanta's Summer Olympics athletes and spectators.


      Information Week. (1996, May 27). p. 12.

    The Ever-Morphing PC


    • "The PC will fade into the background as we deliver technologies that allow people to focus on their jobs, as opposed to focusing on the computer's user interface," says Stephen Boies, head of IBM's interactive systems division at the Thomas Watson Research Center. For instance, IBM is developing a specialized device that car dealers can plug into their telephone line to get credit approval for their customers in under two minutes. And physicians and nurses at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center in California use touch-screen flat-panel displays embedded in the hospital's walls to track patients' progress. Apple Fellow Donald Norman predicts that we're seeing the dawn of computing's next generation: "We're at the end of the second generation of the personal computer," which was marked by the graphical user interface, promising ease of use. "But what happened," says Norman, "is computers have become even more complex, expensive, and unmanageable." In the third generation, "the focus will be on people and the tasks they want to accomplish, not technicalities."


      Information Week. (1996, September 23). p. 48.

    Forget the Home PC-Now It's the "Information Furnace"


    • As computer companies and industry analysts look toward the future of home computing, they're predicting that stand alone desktop units will give way to a micro version of a client-server network, with one central server computer connected to several home-based clients. Compaq and IBM are both working toward this vision-IBM has introduced a new line of Aptiva computers featuring a minitower that can be positioned separately from the compact console that houses the CD-ROM and floppy drives and their power controls. Compaq is working on a wireless network solution so that homeowners don't have to worry about pulling cable through their walls. Hewlett-Packard has dubbed the concept an "information furnace" that runs the rest of the household. "All of these devices will one day be interconnected using a high bandwidth home network that is easy to install, maintain and expand," says HP's senior VP for R&D. "Many of the technologies needed to realize the vision of a home information furnace and its attendant network are available today."


      Investor's Business Daily. (1996, October 15). p. A8.

    Picture Phone Makers Target Desktop Video


    • With prices of all computer-related peripherals continuing their downward spiral, desktop video conferencing equipment is no exception. A group manager for Connectix, a software company that sells a video-phone system for $150, says: "Within five years, every PC will have a built-in camera." Elliott Gold, who's covered the teleconferencing business for years, says, "We still don't know if people really want picture phones," but predicts that whether or not they want it, desktop video communications "will sneak up on them, like fax did."


      Wall Street Journal. (1996, February 27). p. B1.

Conclusions and Recommendation

  •    Essentially all progress in information technology is being driven by forces outside of education. That is, the education market is small and its technical demands are small, relative to business, government, and the military.

       However, the "trickle down" effect is immense. The super computer of today is the medium-priced computer 20 years from now. The best of network connectivity of today will be in homes and schools 20 years from now.

       The challenge is to educate today's students for their roles as responsible adult citizens and emerging leaders.

       The next chapter contains a number of forecasts for the future of information technology in education



<<< Chapter 5


Chapter 7 >>>

Return to Cover Page