Hey folks its Rees Sloan here, I recently had the chance to talk to a very special guest from the year 2025. Sent back in time for his interview, Sephor Blanca was ready to offer his engaging perspective on the evolution of the personal computer.
Q. So you're really from the future?
A. Yup, I'm contractually obligated by the time travel company not to talk about any developments other than computers however, so don't even try to ask about lottery tickets.
Q. Any predictions for the World Series?
A. Haha, you have no idea whats coming, and trust me its more fun that way.
Q. So for you, looking back, what are your thoughts on the kinds of computers we use today in 2010.
A. Well to be honest, the computers you're using now look like they crawled out of the 1980s. All the basic components are still there; the QWERTY keyboard, the screen, and some kind of mouse interface to point to stuff on the screen. What you might not realize now is that entire interface is horribly passe, I'm actually amazed that it survived as long as it did. Even the multitouch computers that came thereafter weren't too much better. The computer was still an object that had to be carried, and looked at, and dealt with on physical level. The problem for you right now is that you've actually had to spend time adapting yourself to the computer instead of the other way around. Kids that are born today will never learn to use a keyboard, or stare at a screen or point with a mouse. In reality these things are just tools to help you access information, but they're not necessarily the best.
Q. Seriously, no keyboard, mouse, or screen? Why don't you begin by describing exactly what your computers look like.
A. Well there are many, many different types, but I guess I can just describe mine. I'm actually wearing it now. The majority of the computer is sitting comfortably around my neck in what looks like a choker.
Q. Haha, a choker? Speaking of crawling out of the 1980s...
A. Yeah well styles can change a lot in 15 years. But anyway it doesn't necessarily have to look like this, Ive seen computers contained in hats, headbands, sunglasses, neckties, shirts, medallions, you name it. Anything close to the head region usually works best. As you can see, my "choker” looks like it has four glass beads separated by four cylindrical spacers. That's it. The glass beads are actually wide angle video camera lenses that point to all four corners. They're constantly recording and mapping the environment around me. Those images (as well as the sound) get wirelessly transmitted to a hard drive at home, where it can be processed.
Q. Why on earth would you want to record every move you make? That sounds a little 1984 to me.
A. Haha, yea but with encryption I'm the only one who ever gets to see it. And If I'm really that concerned about security I can just put the hard drive in my pocket and run a wire up to the computer so that no signal snatching is possible. Encryption has gotten pretty good these days though, with the advent of quantum computing and all.
Q. Ok fair enough, but who would really want to sit around all day and watch replays of their lives?
A. Well the eyes and ears only take in so much, its actually surprising how much detail you can miss. But you're absolutely right no one has the time to just endlessly sift through memories of everything they've ever done. Eventually they'd reach a point where they're just watching themselves watch memories of themselves. (I think that happened to a guy once) But the camera and attached microphone are really there to grant you an instantaneous photographic and audiographic memory. Its my turn to ask a question. Did you eat cereal for breakfast this morning?
Q. Yes I did.
A. Did you glance at the milk carton to see its expiration date?
Q. Well maybe, but I wasn't really even paying attention.
A. Neither was I. But this actually happens to me all the time. Except all those images captured by my computer are archived, sorted, and made available for immediate comparison on request. Sort of the way "Google goggles" works for you people in 2010. The cameras are a pretty high megapixel rating too, so when I opened up the fridge at some point they probably picked up the numbers from some angle and stored it. Let me try to find it now to demonstrate for you. Ill talk out loud so you can understand what I'm doing.
"Computer, show last milk carton...yea that, whats its expiration date?"
"August 12th 2025"
Damn see? It is expired. Or, at least it will be in 15 years. Theres an app out there that will track expiration dates and notify me, but I found it a bit annoying. Besides its just milk. But yeah your entire life, every memory you've ever had is searchable, and even computable. One of the apps I DO have running tracks the nutrition facts on everything I ever eat. The camera just watches what I make for myself and what goes in, and just like that I can find out how well I'm eating.
"Computer, how many calories have I had today?
Q. That's incredible, can you do another one?
A. Uh, sure. For instance, I never really have to take notes anymore. I guess I could write them out if I wanted to. But for instance...
"Computer, replay Jims Harrisons office meeting"
"Which day Mr. Blanca?"
"Last Tuesday, from 1 pm onwards"
Yea see and I'm watching Jim's boring old meeting right now.
Q. Wow just like that, I guess you cant excuse yourself for missing details on anything then. And do you really always have to call it "computer?"
A. Nah, people name them all sorts of things like Tom, or Ms. Potts, or anything really. It only responds to the owners commands.
"Computer, run face recognition on the cute girl that was sitting next to me in the meeting, whats her name?"
"Shelly Abels, phone number privatized"
"Great...Computer, remind me to ask for her number on Thursday."
Q. You said you were "watching the meeting" but I didn't actually see anything happen, is it playing in your mind or something?
A. Haha, nooo. While technically that's possible, its really too much invasive surgery to run hardwire up to the occipital lobe of your brain. What you may not have noticed is that I'm wearing LED implanted contact lenses. The first generation of these babies actually just came out last year your time in 2009.
Ill throw up a link there for ya. While initially the quality was as bad as an 8-bit game of pong, they've steadily improved and engineers have packed thousands of micro-LED lights all throughout the contact lens. Whats more is that since there is one LED screen per eye I can see an image in true 3D if I wish. They're probably the most expensive feature of my computer, and I love em. Those who cant afford it can settle for the glasses, which in my opinion, are a bit kanye.
A. Er, future slang, it means idiotic or dorky. I forget why...
"Computer, remind me in 30 minutes to find out why Kanye means dorky...extreme urgency."
"Yes Mr. Blanca"
Q. So everything you want to see on your computer "screen" can be projected right in front of your eyes, I'm assuming, even with your eyes closed for privacy?
A. Absolutely yes, you can use it with your eyes open or closed, and for sound I use a good old moontooth headset. (Moontooth being the successor to bluetooth of course.) They fit comfortable inside the eardrum, practically invisible.
Q. So whats the battery life like on all the hardware you're wearing?
A. Hahahaha, battery life, I completely forgot you guys still had to deal with that stuff.
Q. Come on Sephor, we try.
A. Let me put it to you this way, the human body is actually surrounded by a small undulating electrical field of its own. That, and there is an abundant amount of energy surrounding us anyway in the form of heat, light, static electricity and Brownian motion. You can even pull energy out of the movement of your clothes. We've tapped into all of these sources to create self-sustaining electronics. Specialized transistors pick up on the available bioelectricity and turn it into useable current. As long as you're still alive, your computer is gonna work. There's still a "battery" in my computer that stores the charge though, its located in the four spacer tubes you see around my neck. Coincidentally, they're about the same size of AAs. The capacity of batteries has really improved over the years.
Q. Sheesh I cant wait to see something like that. I cant tell you how many times my cell phone has died in the middle of a call. Speaking of cell phones, you probably dont have one anymore do you.
A. Right right. I got rid of my last cell phone in 2022. It was kind of sad too. In the end there was this slow realization that you shouldn't have to pay for internet AND a phone service at the same time. The internet could connect you to other people (audibly or not) just as easily.
Q. So sure you get internet access, but how do you use your computer to surf the web, do word processing, and talk to people, all without a keyboard or mouse? This is still kind of new to me.
A. Remember when I said that I would talk out loud so that you could understand my interaction with the computer? Well it turns out you don't actually have to talk. The computer around my neck happens to encircle my spinal cord. Whenever I move my arms or legs or any part of my trunk I send electrical signals down my spine. These are measured by the computer, and each one is unique to the motion that it generates. These can be measured on the surface of the skin in a completely non-invasive way. Using algorithms, the electrical signals are mapped and any kind of motion you make can be used to interact with the operating system. Here let me whip out the projector so you can see what I'm looking at.
*He makes an odd motion with his right hand that looks like a gesture used for throwing dice. Immediately a beam of light shoots out from the front glass bead around his neck and projects a large screen on the opposite wall. A somewhat familiar image of a desktop appears, except that instead of folders there appear to be swirling clouds of colored light. He continues making gestures with his hands, and each motion appears to be a navigation. Despite jostling and moving the light source about, the projected screen appears to be held rigidly in place through some kind of stabilizing effect.
Q. What you're doing looks pretty complex, was it hard to learn all these motions?
A. Not at all, most of them are pretty intuitive. I imagine that most of them are pretty similar to the ones you can use on multitouch computers today. But as you can see the computer is measuring the electrical activity in my spine, translating it into a gestural command like minimize, change page, letter "A", and it affects what we see on the screen. Its kinda like that old movie "Minority Report," but we really don't need special gloves, or even fancy glass computer screens. If I wanted I could do this for my eyes only without the projection too. As for word processing, most people just speak out loud, and the microphones turn everything they say into text. Oh yea here's another cool feature. Do you know any other languages?
Q. Well yea I know a bit of German. Das Wetter ist heute schlecht
A. So I happen to know zero German words, but that really isn't a problem anymore.
"Computer translate his German to English"
"The weather is bad today."
Q. Very impressive,
A. If I tell it to, it will simply translate word for word whatever you say in another language while we speak, and I can make it project my words into another language. If only the people at the tower of Babel had these....speaking of the weather though
"Computer, whats the temperature and humidity?"
"21.7 degrees Celsius, 88% humidity"
"Computer, whats the current temperature of my coffee?"
"Please allow me to see."
"Oh... sorry" *he holds it up to the camera
"40.1 degrees Celsius: above your personal preferences"
Q. Amazing! You'll never have to burn yourself! How did it know that without touching the coffee with some sort of probe?
A. The front camera on my computer isn't just for visible light. It also picks up infrared, the same wavelengths that measure heat. I can also take that infrared video and stream it up to my eyes for a type of night vision, its pretty cool, except the camera is six inches lower than your eyes so THAT takes some getting used to. I bumped my head a lot at first.
Q. So do you even feel human anymore? Its like you have extra senses now or you've sacrificed your brainpower to this machine.
A. Its funny you ask that because in many ways this kind of device is something I consider to be a natural evolutionary step. There is no brainpower sacrifice because your brain still has to know how to use all the tools surrounding it. In many ways this computer increases our ability to interact with the world around us, a computer with this much capability turns us into something so much more. Were able to process information and make informed decisions, stay connected with each other, have super memories, have extraordinary vision and hearing capabilities, its really quite amazing. Without my computer Id feel blind.
Q. Its funny you should say that, I already feel lost on the days when I misplaced my iPhone. Ive been wondering how much technology is encroaching on our lives and what the true cost is for using it. Its like I cant even function without a cell phone or the internet. Wouldn't you say its completely taken over your life now?
A. I think technology has always and will always be an ever present influence in human lives. Its been from the cave dwelling days when the first humans picked up sticks and realized they could be weapons, picked up rocks and used them as tools, or crafted fire and cooked their food. Without these things we could not have become who we are now. Technology simply translates to enhanced ability, and whether for good or for bad those that use it will race past those who don't.
Q. Man, that's deep. You still don't feel like its controlling your life though?
A. Honestly? Maybe a little, but Ive learned in the past few years that you should really just bite off as much as you can chew you know. Ive trimmed down my Facebook friendlist to the top 57 people I actually care about in life. And sometimes I just turn off my reachability and send all my calls straight to voicemail. None of those things have really changed. But beyond that its actually kind of nice not having to sit at a desk in front of a computer all day. I think the real "control" that computers had over our life before was their unecessary demand that we sit down or look at them or type for them. Talking and walking and looking with a computer anywhere we please seems so much more natural to me. Its almost like having a personal assistant with you when you need it. It never really demands anything from you.
Q. True, but does your "personal" assistant" pose any risk of brain cancer with all those electronics circulating your head?
A. Haha, let me put it this way, cancer isn't nearly of a problem in my time as it is in your time. I think they'll let me say that.
Q. Very cool, anything else you'd like to share with us before you go? I know they must keep you on a short leash
A. Actually yes, I'm surprised this didn't come up earlier, but virtual reality is a huge part of the computer process. Geez there are so many examples, I guess gaming is a good one. My favorite one is a kind of adventure game where your player gets to explore this ancient haunted house. I simply stand on an omnidirectional treadmill at home, and since the computers "screen" is built into my contacts the virtual game world is projected around me. Everywhere I look and turn my head the circuitry in the contacts can track my eye movements with accelerometers and adjust the virtual picture of what I'm looking at. Its a very convincing effect, and since I'm on an omnidirectional treadmill I can roam endlessly about in my virtual world.
In addition to all that craziness, there's augmented reality, where the computers rendering system is able to overlay images directly over my visual field, kind of like a heads up display. Imagine that you're lost at particular amusement park. I can tell my computer to draw a pathway at my feat that leads me to the exit, or information booth, or my favorite roller coaster. It works for entertainment too: you can sync up with your friends and play a game of augmented reality dodgeball. To onlookers it appears quite strange to see people jumping and flailing about in the open. But to the players they actually see colored dodgeballs being thrown at them. Quite fun! The applications for such a technology are literally as endless as the human imagination.
Q. I'm insanely jealous, take me with you.
A. Come on, now you know I cant do that. Thanks for having me though. Oh yea, and do yourself a favor, buy some stock in Google. Oops did I just say that?
*Authors note, this interview was entirely fictional and for fun, but all of the technologies discussed above are physically possible and/or already in existence. If you'd like to ask any additional questions or have comments, you know where to post em!