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A look ahead

My obsession with looking forward to new technology is not a new one. This is a brief essay I wrote on November 30th, 1999. The point was to have some sort of a forward-looking benchmark to "look back at".

It's funny, some of this stuff seems obvious now, but at the time you couldn't even buy a DVD burner, and "TiVo" was not a widely recognized verb in the english language. The iPod didn't come out until Oct. 23rd, 2001... Almost 2 years after this was written. I'll admit that I didn't see the personal music player as a stepping stone to "PC-in-my pocket ubiquity", but you can definitely see things moving in that direction. Some of these things have yet to come to fruition. Still, not bad for a pre-turn of the century prediction.

Here's a list of key modern-day technologies this article touches on, albeit in scarce detail:
-DVD burners
-Surround sound audio DVDs (still on the rise)
-5.1 (and 7.1) digital audio soundcards
-TiVo and Windows Media Center set top boxes
-Peer-to-peer music sharing, and homegrown music internet labels
-USB memory keys
-WiFi and the anxiously awaited Wi-MAX
-Shoutcast and other internet radio providers
-In-car GPS navigation

Into the 21st Century:
Predictions For The Next 5 Years
Scott McGrath
November 30th, 1999

It truly is an exciting time to be alive. Technology is being developed at an exponential rate, and in less than 5 years, we can expect the same amount of development that has taken place over the last 10.


Conventional CD sales will dwindle as mp3's become more popular. CD's still sold will be encoded audio, like mp3, and sold either directly through the artist, or through a clearinghouse with a small retainer. Record companies will lose control and power over the industry, and will be forced to work *for* artists. Band success will depend on popularity, successful promotion techniques, and quality. The internet will continue to grow as a medium for the transfer of digital audio, both legally and illegally. Most bands will have some music available for free download on the internet, much like shareware is to software.

CDs and CD burners will eventually be completely replaced by DVD with its vast storage capability. Flash memory and other solid state storage will be used for portable storage. Recorded music and audio will be mixed and encoded for 6 channels, rather than run-of-the-mill 2 channel stereo. This will give the recording industry a fighting chance to get back into the market, because manufactured discs will regain its popularity. But this comeback will be shortlived- 6 channel mp3s, players, and sound cards will be commonplace. Typical internet bandwidth will increase, and transferring larger, 6-channel music won't take long. The digital music revolution will survive.

All radio stations will "bit-cast" this digital audio on the Internet, allowing better quality than can be delivered on the limited spectrum available on the commercial FM radio band. Conventional FM stereo will continue to be offered for mobile reception.


Demand for bandwidth will continue to increase in the home. The fall of dial-on-demand, conventional modem connections is inevitable. Cable companies will thrive, as a rush of dial-up customers make the transition to high-speed, full-time internet access. Backbones will swamp with the demand, cable companies will be forced to impose limits. DSL will become available and common as an increased demand for reliable, private high-speed connections is realized.

Wireless networking will be available over a network of small, high frequency (XX GHz) transceivers placed everywhere in high locations. The bandwidth will be enough to stream digital audio, or comfortably browse the a graphically-rich web, excluding motion video and videoconferencing. Given enough time, even wireless internet bandwidth and compression techniques will be improved to the point where this is possible as well.

Home Computing and Entertainment

Television and the Web will be combined and/or embedded in one-another. The entertainment center and personal computer will be consolidated into one small, convenient appliance. Several of these appliances will be located in any given house- as many as there are TVs in houses today. A plethora of services will be made available by interactive television-like networks. It will bring home shopping, gaming, videoconferencing, and many other services to new levels. These appliances will also function as terminals or consoles for E-mail, home automation and security, and other things. Speech recognition will be dependable enough to use as a primary interface, accompanying the keyboard and mouse.

Palm Computing

Wireless internet will give rise to a strong market for Personal Digital Assistants. Typical uses include remote control of home-automation, personal digital music player, E-mail and Web browser clients, pager, etc. Along with the conventional uses of today which will not go away. PDA use will be greatly enhanced by speaker-specific speech recognition, which will allow reliable speech control and dictation even in a noisy environment.

Mobile (In-Vehicle) Computing

Cars will be standardly equipped with onboard PC's, GPS receivers, and wireless internet. Vehicles traveling on the interstate will be bombarded by geographically-sensitive advertisements on an in-car billboard. Weather information for the traveller's current area, no matter where it may be, will be available at the touch of a button or voice command.


iyaz said…
Not too bad - perhaps you should drop the IT job and become a full-time psychic.
Scott McGrath said…
Thanks Rick-a. I appreciate the feedback :) It's inspirational. I always consider any observations, opinions, or other natural responses as valuable and true in some form.

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