To the PC industry: It’s 2004! Why do computers still suck?
Here is how my PC should be…
- When I sit down in front of it, it should recognize me and start to log me in. If it gets confused, it should ask me who I am. I should be able to respond vocally.
- As soon as my hand hits the mouse, it should log me the rest of the way in, using my fingerprint as verification.
- Once I’m logged in, I don’t see a “desktop”. I see a workspace. A workspace is a view on all of my data which emphasizes the objects which are most important to a particular project or task. There are as many workspaces as there are things I use my computer for, and I can switch between them at will.
- The worskpace isn’t just a list of nondescript icons. It is a professionally laid-out report prepared by an artificially intelligent software agent that has observed my work habits. Data items are summarized intelligently according to their type: Contacts have a photo, name, and a note about the last interaction(s) I had with them.; Documents are thumbnailed and summarized; etc. The workspace also presents the possible actions I could take on any given object or group of objects.
- The workspace makes it very easy to change the scope of what is shown, on any axis: type of object, date range, subject matter, you name it. The workspace also provides shortcuts to change the scope based on objects that are currently showing: “More like this”, “Ignore this kind of object”, etc.
- Every action I take is logged and incorporated into a version history of my data. Any document, object, whatever, can be rolled back to any given point in it’s history. Sets of documents can be rolled back as a group.
- The computer never, ever, interrupts my work for any reason. Instead, a discrete frame ocupying a portion of screenspace keeps a running commentary of suggestions, events that have occurred, reminders, and questions that it would like answered. If some action cannot be taken without answering a question, the computer lets me know – but it doesn’t pop up dialog boxes that interrupt what I’m doing.
- The computer learns things about me, like what music I like to hear when I’m working, and what websites I visit a lot. I don’t have to manually keep track of bookmarks and playlists for stuff like that.
- There is no filesystem, as far as I’m concerned. There is simply a database of all the information known to me, local and remote. Paths are simply database queries. I can find data by searching for any combination of metadata.
- There are no applications. There are only objects and the operations I can perform on them.
- There is no “Save” or “Load”. Document changes are tracked and written to disk in real time, along with a change history that allows them to be rolled back. I don’t need to assign a “name” to every file because I can always find a document that I’ve started by querying by date or by subject matter.
- Documents and other objects are automatically categorized for me using a learning categorization scheme where the computer watches how I file things and then attempts to match my system using statistical methods like Baysien filtering and Latent Semantic Analysis. If it’s not sure about something it asks me.
- When the PC starts up it starts back up in *exactly* the same state it was in when I shut it down.
In other words, the computer acts like a secretary instead of a dumb bag of transistors. Nothing in the above list is unfeasible with today’s hardware and today’s software. Everything on there has been tried in one form or another; just never as a cohesive whole. There is no good reason for the computer I just described not to exist.