ATLANTA My ability to predict the future is amazing. Even in college, my gifts of prediction were so powerful they created a paying job for me.
My inability to predict the winning race horse at the nearby Oaklawn track in Hot Springs, Ark., left me so broke I needed to take a student job.
So today, fearless in my ignorance, Ill look at whats coming for the new year and beyond in personal technology.
Television meets the Internet
I was in the audience at the big Comdex computer show in 1996 and again in 1999 when Microsofts Bill Gates talked about the convergence of the computer and household devices such as the television.
Gates was right, it just took a bit more than a decade for convergence to get rolling in a meaningful way. Now were seeing all sorts of products that attempt with varying degrees of success to marry your television, the Internet and your computer.
There are real products on the market right now televisions with built-in Internet connectivity and devices that stream movies and television shows to that big HDTV of yours.
Even now the technology is in its infancy. It promises, and to some degree delivers, the potential to deliver content from around the world to your TV.
But questions and roadblocks remain, everything from legal questions about royalties for that content to the ability of the Internet to handle the enormous bandwidth requirements that would be created if most of us start using the Net to stream video as routinely as turning on the TV.
This convergence is the most exciting new consumer technology on the horizon.
What if you could carry a 70-inch TV screen in your shirt pocket?
You can do that right now. All it takes is a pair of ugly looking goggles that beam the picture right to your eyeballs. Hook them to your computer or laptop, put on the glasses and you have a large private screen. You can watch bigger-than-life movies from your airline seat, lie in bed watching one movie while your spouse watches another, or work at a laptop with the worlds biggest screen.
The image quality is disappointing. Thats going to change and change fast. Big-screen HDTVs wont go away. But these goggles are going to change the way we watch TV and use computers.
Its happening in a flash
Even with processing chips that offer speed that would have seemed like science fiction a few years ago, theres a speed bump that holds back the performance of your desktop or laptop computer.
Most of your computer innards are made up of solid-state electronics that offer an almost unlimited potential for speed. The speed bump is the hard disk that stores your programs and data.
While hard disks today are both larger and faster than I would have ever thought possible, theyre reaching their speed limit. Thats because they are partially mechanical devices that rely on spinning magnetic platters to store and retrieve data.
Thats why you are seeing the first examples of computers that use flash drives the solid-state storage devices that have been common for years as keychain-sized ways to carry data around with you.
Costs are dropping. Replacing the mechanical hard disk with solid-state storage offers the potential for a huge leap in computing speed.
Bill Husted writes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.