The computer and software industry is in a state of constant evolution, getting bigger, better, faster and more powerful almost by the hour. Most of this change, however, is mere window dressing – updated versions of this or that with a few bugs ironed out here and there and a few new features that don’t mean all that much to the average user.

I defy anyone who isn’t a technophile, network administrator or Bill Gates to name 10 things that were significantly different between Internet Explorer 4.0 and 5.0, Windows95 and Windows98 and WindowsME, the last three Mac operating systems before OSX, Pentium II and Pentium III processors with similar speeds, SDRAM and RDRAM – you get the picture.

There are improvements, of course, but nothing that would quantify as a quantum leap or paradigm shift – a concept so new, a technology so radical, that it will change the way we work and play on the computer.

It turns out that the next big thing on the horizon is actually a combination of advancements in software, hardware and connectivity.

Separately, these new products aren’t all that exciting, but taken together they could constitute a bold new era in technology.

Faster computers

Back in 1965, just four years after the integrated circuit was invented, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore predicted that the number of transistors per integrated circuit would double every 18 months. This observation was branded as Moore’s Law, and a lot of computer types still take it fairly seriously – in fact he underestimated the rate at which transistors per integrated circuit would double, and we’re now at the point where we’ve reached our physical limitations. We’re at the point where we simply can’t stretch circuitry any thinner without it overheating and melting.

To get more performance within these limitations, chip companies are radically redesigning the architecture of the processor to get as much performance out of and experimenting with different elements in circuitry to increase speed and performance.

Intel is getting ready to launch its Pentium 4 processors, capable of speeds up to 2 Gigaherz – more than double what was possible with the troublesome Pentium III chips that debuted a few short years ago. A lot of car analogies have been used to simplify what 2 GHz will mean to the average user, and quite frankly this is about as useful as a tortoise and hare analogy, and the old greased lightning simile. To understand what this means without a lot of analogies, visit the Intel site and watch the Flash presentation.


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