Computers = Trucks
A couple of years ago at D8, Steve Jobs said on stage something like this: computers as we know them won’t go away, but they won’t be used nearly as much. They’ll be like trucks: most people don’t drive around in them all the time, but they’ll use them for special purposes, to get particular types of work done.
I haven’t always agreed with Jobs, and didn’t then, but I’ve since come around to this particular view of his, and come around pretty completely. I’m now convinced that what we think of as laptops and desktops today will be relegated to pretty nichey sorts of work tasks. The future, obviously at this point, belongs to other, more human & invisible, types of machines.
I’ve been living with just my tablet and phone recently — it feels clearer & clearer that many people will just skip the computer phase altogether.
I think many people believe that means that we’ll have a world of consumers, since tablets and phones so far aren’t great creation tools. But I think that is changing, and quickly. Apps like Paper, from Fifty-three, and Diet Coda, from Panic, not to mention Instagram, are letting people create things on the fly that aren’t just throwaway, but are legitimate creations.
I picked up a phrase some time ago that I think applies: “The next big thing is always beneath contempt.” Implication being that it is, of course, until it isn’t. Until it’s too big to ignore. This has happened over and over again in our society. In the middle ages, people assumed that no serious discussion could happen in anything but Latin — the so-called “vulgar” languages had no merit. And writers assumed that nothing interesting or lasting would come from this new medium of television. And, I think, people assume right now that nothing important will be created from a 10” touch screen without a keyboard (let alone a tiny 3.5” screen).
But I think that we already know that that’s a mistaken view of history, and of the future. That humans always find a way to create, and to make. Phones and tablets are right in the midst of becoming devices of incredible creation, and they’re going to let us create things on the go, in real time, that we never imagined.