How Will We Use Tomorrows PCs



How Will We Use Tomorrow\'s P.C.s?
Tomorrow\'s PCs are going to be different in many ways; they will be more powerful, they will include more facilities for multimedia, and looking further ahead, they may have features such as three dimensional displays, or wrap around virtual reality. These changes will shape the way which we use our PCs, but even without such advances, there are changes that can and will take place in the operating systems that enable us to make better use of PCs. I would like to focus here on some of the changes that I believe are desirable.

So what is wrong with today\'s operating systems ?

Plenty. Whereas the hardware for today\'s desk top PCs has advanced at an ever increasing pace, the operating systems have not matched up to the hardware. To be sure, there has been progress. The world of windows is a significant advance on the primitive command line interface of the original PC operating systems. But this represents merely a catching up with the state of the art of thirty years ago. The cost power ratio of current microprocessors would have amazed the pioneers at IBM who developed these things, but they would not have been too impressed with the operating system.

One of the other things wrong with operating systems is just that - the name. I either have to spell it out all the time, or fall back on the somewhat cryptic OS; and what exactly does \'operating system\' mean to the average PC user? It sounds more like something you expect to find in a hospital than on a home computer. What is needed is a name that is more user friendly, and represents better the relationship I believe should exist between the PC and the user. In a world where the average user is well used to the infra red controller to zap the TV, hi-fi or VCR, I suggest that Controller is a better word to use than operating system, so that is what I shall use.

Current controllers have evolved as being little more than a way of users getting application programs to operate on their PC. This is how they started, and that is, by and large, how they have remained. They have become prettier, more complex, larger, and aware of other PCs on a network; but their primary purpose is to enable the user to start or terminate a specific application (such as a word processor). Partly because of this rationale, controllers have been too much oriented to the workings of the PC and the application programs, and not enough to the relationship between the user and the PC. Tomorrow\'s controller will have to act as a mediator between the user and the various tasks and applications that are provided on the PC. To do this, it will have to be able to communicate both with the user, and the applications; it will also have to know more about both.

To give a simple example - I use my PC most days, I have used it hundreds of times, but yet it doesn\'t even know my name! In fact, it knows absolutely nothing about me at all. Every time I come to use the PC, it comes as a complete surprise to it. It has no memory of me, of my habits, my working practices, my family, my friends or my interests. We are complete and utter strangers. I believe this has to change, and with the power of tomorrow\'s PCs, it will change.

Another complaint I have about controllers is that they are far too passive, they are not proactive. If I do nothing, then my PC does nothing. Now I can, with some difficulty, arrange for various tasks to be carried out automatically without my being present, but this is only a beginning. Consider, I have to monitor the organisation and structuring of the files held on my PC. Why? I think the controller should do this for me, it knows about such things better than I do. It can get to know my requirements by observation, with confirmation by questioning me when necessary, and take care of it. Perhaps it could cogitate over such matters at night. While I get my rest, it can clear