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Ask Slashdot: What Is Missing In Tech Today? 357

dryriver writes: There is so much tech and gadget news pouring out of the internet every day that one might think "everything tech that is needed already exists." But of course, people thought precisely that at various points in human history, and then completely new tools, technologies, processes, designs, devices and innovations came along soon after and changed everything. Sometimes the opposite also happens: tech that was really good for its day and used to exist is suddenly no longer available. For example, many people miss the very usable Psion palmtop computers with their foldout QWERTY keyboards, touchscreens, and styluses; or would have liked the Commodore Amiga with its innovative custom chips and OS to continue existing and evolving; or would have liked to be able to keep using software like Softimage XSI or Adobe Director, which were suddenly discontinued.

So here is the question: what tech, in your particular profession, industry, personal area of interest, or scientific or academic field, is currently "missing?" This can be tech that is needed but does not exist yet, either hardware or software, or some kind of mechanical device or process. It could also be tech that was available in the past, but was EOL'd or "End Of Lifed" and never came back in an updated or evolved form. Bonus question: if what you feel is "missing" could quite feasibly be engineered, produced, and sold today at a profit, what do you think is the reason it isn't available?
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Ask Slashdot: What Is Missing In Tech Today?

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  • Open Standards (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 10, 2018 @05:15PM (#56101275)

    Open standards are what we're missing. Things like Apple's AirDrop provide a rich tool for sharing all kinds of content, but only within the Apple ecosystem. Tools like this and others can only truly be useful when they are open and interoperable with the majority of devices on the market. Closed ecosystems are limiting the potential for technology to improve communication across the board and eliminate paper.

    • Tools like this and others can only truly be useful when they are open and interoperable with the majority of devices on the market. Closed ecosystems are limiting the potential for technology to improve communication across the board and eliminate paper.

      Indeed. Depending on where I am in my house, I can say:

      "Alexa, put milk on the shopping list."
      "Siri, put eggs on the shopping list."
      "Bixby, put bread on the shopping list."

      The problem is that each item goes on to a different list, because these companies refuse to cooperate.

      There are some areas of cooperation. For instance, calendar apps interoperate pretty well.

    • Re:Open Standards (Score:5, Insightful)

      by arglebargle_xiv ( 2212710 ) on Saturday February 10, 2018 @06:59PM (#56101659)
      Reliability is what we're missing. 99% of IT today is like an incontinent toddler, it needs constant maintenance and mucking out and patching and updating just to keep it running. Not to add new capabilities, but just to keep it running. Compare that to a car, for which the expectation is that you turn the key and it starts up and goes where you want, without first needing to be rebooted and patched and the firmware reflashed and the networking reconfigured every time.
      • Reliability is what we're missing. 99% of IT today is like an incontinent toddler, it needs constant maintenance and mucking out and patching and updating just to keep it running. Not to add new capabilities, but just to keep it running. Compare that to a car, for which the expectation is that you turn the key and it starts up and goes where you want, without first needing to be rebooted and patched and the firmware reflashed and the networking reconfigured every time.

        Which all boils down to quality coding. It used to be a point of pride to write a piece of software that was reliable. Now everything is coded quickly and sent to market just as quickly. The consumer is now the beta tester. We wouldn't accept it if our car won't start but we will willingly accept crappy technology as a just a part of life. Mystifying....

        • Re:Open Standards (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 10, 2018 @07:37PM (#56101777)

          Imho, the trouble with software began when vendors decided it was cheaper to pay lawyers than coders. Instead of building a product that works, they created interminable license "agreements", whose sole purpose is to exonerate them of liability for anything. No other industry could get away with this.

      • Re:Open Standards (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Wycliffe ( 116160 ) on Saturday February 10, 2018 @07:38PM (#56101785) Homepage

        Compare that to a car, for which the expectation is that you turn the key and it starts up and goes where you want, without first needing to be rebooted and patched and the firmware reflashed and the networking reconfigured every time.

        Henry Ford gets a lot of credit for the assembly line but his other big break thru is equally important. He decided to standardize maintenance to set intervals. The 3 months or 3k miles isn't because everything needs that interval but because by standardizing on that interval you can minimize repairs. You now have a goal to make sure every part can last at least 3k miles between services and you line everything else up to also be some multiple of this. If you need a transmission flush or tires changed make sure you do it during one of the scheduled 3k mile services. Before this, every part had a different repair schedule and they were all out of sync so you had to take your car in constantly. That's where the computer industry is today.

        • by Kjella ( 173770 )

          Well I'd also argue there's a huge difference between preventing breakdowns and preventing malicious attacks. I mean if you yank out the network cable computers are very stable. Maintenance you can plan for, when somebody will find a bug in your code and release a 0-day exploit is pretty much impossible.

    • by tsa ( 15680 )

      Airdrop? Whatsapp/Messages/Facbook Messages/whathaveyou! Those protocols should be open. Please EU, make it happen!

    • We have too many bad standards as it is.
      The Linux Standard Base requires a bunch of useless crap that is applicable to only 1 overly controlling vendor (Debian distros need `rpm` to comply because Redhat) There are plenty more examples: https://refspecs.linuxfoundati... []
      On the opposite side, you have POSIX, which is held back by another big industry vendor (this time Oracle because Solaris) Most shells have support for a large percentage of "bashisms", yet no useful sh features have been added to the
  • Privacy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 10, 2018 @05:23PM (#56101299)


    • I think I'd be a little more nuanced and say, "user control of their data".

      There are times people don't need or want privacy. When people want to broadcast shit on social media, they don't want privacy. What they should have is the choice, and control of their own data. Maybe they want to post under a pseudonym. Or maybe they want to post without including a location. That should be allowed.

      And honestly? I think people should be allowed to sell their privacy. I think it's a stupid thing to do personally, bu

  • Medical answer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Okian Warrior ( 537106 ) on Saturday February 10, 2018 @05:25PM (#56101305) Homepage Journal

    I can't give you an answer for general tech, but medical tech would be greatly advanced by the ability to put people into suspended animation.

    Basically, if the person's body isn't *operating* - needing to breathe, needing to circulate, and so on - then repairs could be done much more effectively and cheaply,

    I read where gunshot victims would be suspended [] temporarily as an experimental method a couple of years back.

    Whatever happened to that?

    Perhaps a combination of sudden hypoothermia coupled with sulphur dioxide treatment [] or something.

    • by Okian Warrior ( 537106 ) on Saturday February 10, 2018 @05:33PM (#56101355) Homepage Journal

      Another medical tech that we don't have is quick, multiple diagnosis elimination systems.

      For example, suppose you go to the doctor feeling tired. They could draw some blood and test for (or eliminate) the 10 most common problems [] with that as a symptom. Flu, cold, mono, lyme, infection (other), anemia, vitamin deficiency, thyroid, allergy, and so on.

      Rather than rely on reported symptoms and playing odds by trying treatments (".., and see if it goes away") we should have ways to more accurately detect or eliminate the most common conditions.

      • We have to take it step farther than "quick, multiple diagnosis". The various chemical levels in the body fluctuate with time and vary drastically with input. I want to strap a device onto/into my arm for a week and monitor 300 levels over the time period. Allow everyone to see their data and use the internet to analyze it. Even simply monitoring acidity over time would be a helpful start. How do you analyze a website? How do you debug/profile your software? Why can't I do that with my body? We need to get
    • "Oh, Mr. Burns. We'll thaw you out as soon as we find a cure for 17 stab wounds in the back. How we doing, boys?"

      "Well, we're up to 15!"

    • We need more people who understand that software is not the same as tech. Everyone's going to social media, web apps, and such, there's so little silicon in silicon valley anymore. You can't make medical devices with just software, you need people who actually understand technology and can build some. I say this as someone who mostly does software.

  • Seems simple. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Saturday February 10, 2018 @05:25PM (#56101309)

    * Standard form factor for making upgrade-able smartphones-esq devices. (oh capitalism)
    * Large MEMS based displays. (Apple bought the patents but who knows if they are developing it)
    * Consumer-grade ASIC lithography and chip packaging. (are custom 20um chips too much to ask for?)
    * Inexpensive microinverters for solar panels. (price fixing?)
    * Solid-state lithium-ion batteries. (in development)

    The list goes on and on but those are some big ones.

    • by JBMcB ( 73720 )

      * Inexpensive microinverters for solar panels. (price fixing?)

      Nope, efficient inverters are expensive to build. You need a very high quality 1:10 transformer, which means tight tolerances, which means expensive manufacturing. If you can find a way to quickly and precisely wind transformer coils (and probably the ferrite cores) then you can have a cheap inverter.

  • Fun (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    All the different architectures and types of computers were fun. There was diversity. Now it's a boring pile of largely the same stuff. Even the internet and computer networking was fun, and now it's just a pile of bullshit group-think, and advertising.

    Wanna read something FUN? Look up DTACK-GROUNDED, or early BYTE magazines. That's FUN to read. It's opinionated, slightly crazy, full of technical details and piles of fun.

    If anyone knows of similar sorts of stuff being written now, please post a link!

  • by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Saturday February 10, 2018 @05:28PM (#56101325)

    Privacy. Every asshole corp. is trying to bleed you for data they can sell.

    • by jd ( 1658 ) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {kapimi}> on Saturday February 10, 2018 @07:03PM (#56101669) Homepage Journal

      We'd have privacy by now but consumers wanted IPv4 rather than IPv6. We lost Mandatory IPSec across the Internet as a result.

      We'd have privacy, but American voters chose not to have EU privacy laws and EU data protection laws, thus defiling the globe.

      We'd have privacy, but users chose AOL.

      We'd have privacy, but users chose Microsoft's email clients over ones that supported PGP/GPG.

      We'd have privacy, but users chose Microsoft. (Windows 95 stored passwords in plain text. And users felt this was much safer than the encrypted stuff Linux and BSD were using.)

      Sorry, I have no sympathy for a society that feels deprived of privacy when they have actively chosen to throw it away.

      • We'd have privacy by now but consumers wanted IPv4 rather than IPv6. We lost Mandatory IPSec across the Internet as a result.

        Perhaps IPv6 complexity (like including IPsec) is what has restrained it back... For no real benefit, since IPsec is mandatory in implementation, but not in running configuration.

      • by cooldev ( 204270 )

        Except for the EU one, you gave impressively terrible examples. The days of AOL, Windows 95, and PGP (and whether Microsoft Clients supported it or not) are drops in the bucket compared to things like:

        - Social media
        - Online advertising, and Google in particular. The siren song of "free" software in exchange for giving up a significant amount of privacy
        - Credit bureaus (not that you have much choice) ... many more

    • And the means to implement privacy-respecting software: software freedom—the freedom to run, inspect, share, and modify published computer software.

      You can't have proprietary software protect your privacy because proprietary software is inherently untrustworthy. Users are not allowed to know what it does, fix or improve the software, share copies (either verbatim copies or modified copies) to help their community, and sometimes the software is so restrictive it will refuse to let the user run or acces

    • by Kohath ( 38547 )

      Not Apple.

  • by JBMcB ( 73720 ) on Saturday February 10, 2018 @05:31PM (#56101341)

    A box I put in my basement with a bunch of hard drives. I turn it on and configure a couple of things via a web UI. I download clients onto all of my devices and aim them at the box, and they all automatically get backed up. I open a port on my router and my phones/laptop/tablets do incremental backups OTA via encrypted tunnel. The box has a couple of removable drives I can swap out and keep off site. There's an option to mirror in the cloud - encrypted on my side, for a nominal fee.

    There are things that do some of the above for some devices. There isn't anything that I know of that does them all for every device.

  • by Gaygirlie ( 1657131 ) <[moc.liamtoh] [ta] [eilrigyag]> on Saturday February 10, 2018 @05:33PM (#56101347) Homepage

    Um, respect for peoples' privacy, maybe? Honesty in advertising? A company that produces products without planned obsolescense? A company just trying to make good products, instead of trying to get the most out of peoples' wallets, like e.g. not selling two versions of a product where the difference is literally $3 worth of components and different firmware, but where the one with all components is then priced at $200 higher?

    Oh, I dunno. To condense this, I feel like respectability is one of the things companies and the people running them that is sorely needed -- not that I expect things to change for the better in the future!

  • Teleporters - And all fedex DHL UPS TRUCKS and pesky delivery drones are DOA. You might as well keep on worrying that driverless trucks are coming -- and AI will take over their jobs.

  • by dryriver ( 1010635 ) on Saturday February 10, 2018 @05:37PM (#56101367)
    ... I'll list a few things that I think ARE missing in tech. One thing that I would love is a programming language that can automatically compile to multiple OSs - Windows, Linux, Mac, Android, iOS - without any sort of adjustment or porting happening. Hit Compile, and your software runs on a number of supported OSs. I would also love for someone to invent something like GPU BASIC, a programming language that is as easy as BASIC, but can be used to write code that runs fully parallelized on modern GPUs. In the 3D content creation space, the biggest problem right now is that different 3D apps cannot read each other's 3D scene files at all. For example, LibreOffice can read and write Word or Excel files just fine. But 3D software that costs many thousands of Dollars a license cannot pull this feat off. Maya cannot read 3DMax files, Cinema4D cannot read LightWave3D files, Houdini cannot read Blender files and so on. Its a huge pain in the ass. Nothing is compatible with each other in the 3D space. I would like more work done on visual coding interfaces like DataFlow languages, where you basically program using nodes or flowchart-like visual paradigms. DataFlow languages exist. But most are for specialized applications. I would love a DataFlow language that has all of the power and flexibility of something like C or C++. A DataFlow language that could be used to code just about anything, even an Operating System Kernel if you are so inclined. In programming, one of the things I miss is automatic porting/translation to another language and syntax, and multi-syntax programming languages. Imagine writing an algorithm in BASIC, and being able to see that algorithm instantly as C, Python or Rust code. There are a few language-to-language auto translation tools out there. But I'd love to have this built into my programming IDE. In terms of electronics and gadgets, I'd love to have a camera that can capture the world in both Stereo 3D and Volumetric 3D. Companies like Lytro are doing some pioneering work here. But the resulting film camera is huge, heavy and expensive. I'd love to have a camera like that shaped like a handycam or GoPro camera. And to finish on a more domestic note, the number one most requested domestic robot helper is a dishwashing robot. You throw your dirty dishes on a counter. The robot takes care of them. A robot that irons clothes, mops floors and clears crap off your table would be cool as well.
  • Computer to Mind interface that allows me to be in my recliner with my eyes closed and have a multi screen total thought controled pointer and input mechanism ;)

    My eyes are going bad (RA issues) and my RA has also messed up my hands ;)

    Just my 2 cents ;)
    • Computer to Mind interface that allows me to be in my recliner with my eyes closed and have a multi screen total thought controlled pointer and input mechanism ;)

      They've had stuff like that for a while, but you must think in Russian []. :-)

  • by swell ( 195815 ) <> on Saturday February 10, 2018 @05:41PM (#56101389)

    where's the love?

  • I miss Usenet: a single place where you could find communities centered on tens of thousands of topics. If I had a question on house painting, or progressive rock, or chip design, or whatever, there was usually a well-populated newsgroup for it, and it wasn't hard to find. Today, we have Stack Exchange, but its selection of topics is minimal compared to Usenet's. Or we can search the web for sites of interest, but in my experience, many of the communities centered on these sites are tiny and unresponsive. U

  • by kackle ( 910159 ) on Saturday February 10, 2018 @05:46PM (#56101407)
    Discernment. That is, smart people spending their time on trivial products, projects and ideas, citing an increased paycheck while one's life ticks away.

    If you're older, you know what I'm talking about. Younger, and you won't understand yet, and proceed to knock me here.
  • by sanf780 ( 4055211 ) on Saturday February 10, 2018 @05:52PM (#56101419)
    Promised since the 60s!
  • by Nkwe ( 604125 )
    VMS (the operating system from DEC) or at least key features from it. I really miss things like automatic file versioning, file level flags for things like backup/nobackup, a distributed lock manager (enabling seamless clustering), the ability for executables to register their syntax with the shell (DCL) and have the shell parse and enforce command syntax, and software development things like trivially simple cross language library linking.
  • Durability (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Pseudonym ( 62607 ) on Saturday February 10, 2018 @05:53PM (#56101429)


    If I spend $1000 on a refrigerator, there may be parts that wear out and need replacement, but with only that proviso I expect it to last 10 years or more under normal conditions. If it doesn't last 8 years, it was defective to begin with.

    The same goes for anything that costs $1000. The expected lifespan increases as the price increases; a car, for example, should last 20 years.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by swb ( 14022 )

      Add in repairability. It's too often sacrificed, and often for superficial reasons related to style or appearance. I willing to live with modular repairability (ie, if the fridge compressor goes you replace it with another motor/compressor combo and can't just replace the motor) because I get the economies of scale aspects and too often we don't even get modular repairability anymore.

      Worse, designed in obsolescence is often a part of it. They don't WANT you to fix it, they want you to buy a whole new one

    • Durability.

      If I spend $1000 on a refrigerator, there may be parts that wear out and need replacement, but with only that proviso I expect it to last 10 years or more under normal conditions. If it doesn't last 8 years, it was defective to begin with.

      The same goes for anything that costs $1000. The expected lifespan increases as the price increases; a car, for example, should last 20 years.

      Just noting that I've had the same refrigerator since 1993 -- and it came with my house, so it's at least 25 years old. The only thing I've ever replaced is the (mechanical) defrost timer, and I did than myself. I might have to replace the ice-maker water solenoid in the near future, but don't know yet.

      Granted, a new refrigerator would probably be more energy efficient, but my ROI for replacing it just for that could be a long time coming.

  • by RonVNX ( 55322 ) on Saturday February 10, 2018 @06:10PM (#56101485)


  • Home and small business routers today are such a joke, security-wise.
    Most of them never get updates and are thus -- easily hackable.
    The ones that do get updates (Apple) are still a joke security-wise.

    Open source could solve that, and WRT makes a good start, except that it seems to be bogged down by politics (sabotage ?).

    Security configuration on WRT is still a confusing nightmare.
    port-knocking, DNS block-lists, IP address blacklists / whitelists should all be normal/easy/semi-standard and they are not.


  • So here is the question: what tech, in your particular profession, industry, personal area of interest, or scientific or academic field, is currently "missing?"

    LISP!!! :-D

  • My axes to grind (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tepples ( 727027 ) <> on Saturday February 10, 2018 @06:22PM (#56101529) Homepage Journal

    Summarizing my list of unresolved axes to grind []:

    Netbooks and other GNU/Linux laptops
    Conspicuous by their absence from electronics stores are laptops certified by the manufacturer as driver-compatible with free operating systems such as GNU/Linux, especially compact laptops with screens 11.6 inch or smaller. This "netbook" segment was formally EOL'd in 2012 [] in favor of tablets running more limited smartphone operating systems. System76 and Purism laptops are not only larger but also mail order, which means the buyer has no chance to try the screen and keyboard before buying.
    More widespread support for non-SMS 2-factor authentication
    Pay-as-you-go cellular plans in the United States still charge for incoming calls, yet 2-factor authentication on Twitter still sends SMS for each login attempt even if the user has set up TOTP [].
    Game mods
    Video game consoles still don't support community-developed extensions to gameplay, with a few highly circumscribed exceptions.
    Accidental music plagiarism
    Copyright law obligates composers to create original music as opposed to music that is too similar to something that someone else wrote. Even accidental plagiarism can lead to infringement judgments with damages on the order of a million dollars (Bright Tunes Music v. Harrisongs Music), which spells sure financial ruin for small-time composers. But to my knowledge there's no search engine that a composer can put a piece of music into and see if someone else has already written and copyrighted something substantially similar.
    Cross-site web subscription
    A user is unlikely to be willing to spend $6 for an entire month's subscription to a website or a 300-pack of article views just to view a single article, putting the other 299 article views or 29.9 days of subscription to waste. It'd be better if a subscription. Google Contributor would be a start toward this, except it probably feeds subscribers' click streams back to the same company's adtech services (AdSense and DoubleClick).
    Ad serving that respects viewers' privacy
    Newspaper ads do not surveil each reader to infer a detailed interest profile specific to each reader. So why do web ads have to do so? It should be easier for website operators to sell their own ad space to advertisers, so that no ad network or ad exchange needs to snoop on readers' click streams.
    Rural broadband
    A lot of the United States is still outside the footprint of any fiber, cable, or DSL Internet provider. This means home Internet users are stuck on satellite or cellular connections, generally with a restrictive monthly cap that a household with multiple computing devices could trigger just by downloading semiannual operating system updates.
    Transport Layer Security (TLS) on local area networks (LANs)
    The Internet of Things (IOT) has no public key infrastructure (PKI). Many devices that connect to a home network expose a web-based configuration interface, such as a router, printer, thermostat, or network attached storage (NAS). But with more and more web platform features becoming available only in secure contexts [] (meaning HTTPS unless served from, operators of home servers will have to change them from cleartext HTTP to HTTPS. And because public certificate authorities (CAs) don't issue in the multicast DNS domain (.local), each head of household would have to buy a fully-qualified domain name for use by these devices' certificate provisioning process and keep this domain renewed. Is there an alternative to this being a huge windfall for domain registrars?
    Code signing
    Microsoft requires peripheral manufacturers to purchase an Extended Validation (EV) code signing certificate in order for Windows to be able to install a driver for the peripheral. But for a contributor to a driver for a low-volume specialist piece of hardware, which driver is distributed as free software, forming a corporation to qualify for an EV certificate and obtaining said certificate can make up a substantial chunk of a hobbyist hardware project's budget. And this needs to be factored into every project, not just the first, because both corporations and EV code signing certificates need to be renewed periodically.
    Lack of native application portability
    Many users of Slashdot have a blanket policy to disable JavaScript and WebAssembly because advertisers have poisoned the well. However, they offer no replacement for the web platform as a way to avoid having to develop an application six times: once for Windows desktop, once for Windows UWP, once for GNU/Linux, once for Android, once for macOS, and once for iOS.
    • Dude, you've been living under a rock because prepaid cell phones are usually unlimited talk and text at the bare minimum. Trust me, I pay 50.00 for mine and I even have unlimited data.
      • Pay-as-you-go cellular plans in the United States still charge for incoming calls

        prepaid cell phones are usually unlimited talk and text at the bare minimum. Trust me, I pay 50.00 for mine and I even have unlimited data.

        "Pay-as-you-go" and "unmetered prepaid" are not the same thing. The lowest tier prepaid plan at T-Mobile is $3.00 per month and comes with 30 voice minutes, texts, or a combination thereof in a month, with 10 cents for each additional, and no data.

        Besides, that isn't the only thing wrong with Twitter's mentality of using TOTP as a backup for SMS as opposed to the other way around. If someone social-engineers your carrier or exploits SS7 flaws, he can get into your SMS and from there into your account.

    • We have tons of solutions to native application portability: Java, .NET (esp. with Xamarin or Unity for games), C++ and XWindows or other crossplatform UX, JavaScript wrapped into a native looking app. It's a flawed argument to jump from "we need a cross platform language" to "we need a cross platform language that runs by default whenever I visit a website". That's the part that we object to.
  • by bobstreo ( 1320787 ) on Saturday February 10, 2018 @06:23PM (#56101537)

    The first thing to consider is a overarching group that supports technical workers rights and can negotiate pay.

    No more unpaid interns, no more 100 hour work weeks with vague promises of future profits, companies trying to pay almost slave wages to imported labor.

    On the technical side, I'd go with limitless energy. If there was enough (plus more) electrical availability for everyone, most of the worlds problems could be solved pretty quickly.

  • I remember the days when CPU transistor count (and performance) doubled every 18 months (or less), AND the chips reduced in price as well. Now we're lucky to get a 10% improvement from Intel over 18 months, with stagnant or slowly increasing prices.

    • I remember the days when CPU transistor count (and performance) doubled every 18 months (or less), AND the chips reduced in price as well. Now we're lucky to get a 10% improvement from Intel over 18 months, with stagnant or slowly increasing prices.

      And intel is churning out processors that are buggy as hell!

    • by Misagon ( 1135 )

      Moore's "Law" has died because manufacturing is approaching hard physical limits: features on the chip are only tens of atoms across, not tends of thousands.
      CPU manufacturers have to compete on parallelism and better architecture, but unfortunately we are pretty much locked in on the x86 architecture not only on MS Windows but in practice also on Mac and Linux.

      For Linux to break out of the Intel hegemony, major distributions would have to start supporting multiple CPU architectures equally. Start requiring

  • SED and FED are technologies that use microscopic versions of the electron gun from a CRT to power each individual pixel. They promised all sorts of advantages over existing display tech like LCD but both technologies just sort of fizzled out.

    What happened? Did LCD (LED-backlit LCD) get good enough that the advantages of SED/FED over LCD were no longer enough to overcome the disadvantages? Were problems found in turning SED/FED displays into something that could be mass-produced at a price low enough to be

  • by ka9dgx ( 72702 ) on Saturday February 10, 2018 @06:33PM (#56101567) Homepage Journal

    1> Capability based operating systems - These allow a user to control the risks associated with running a given program in a familiar and transparent manner, thus solving most maladies associated with the use of networked computing.
    2> Small scale power sources- The personal kilowatt. It should be feasible to develop a small turbogenerator capable of about 1.4 horsepower, for all manner of uses.
    3> Homogeneous non-Von Neuman computation (i.e. FPGA without the pain). A grid of look up tables (LUT) can do Turing complete computation without the need for complex routing decisions to fit into the confines of current FPGA architectures. This homogenity also provides flexibility in fit to any size compute core, and the ability to route-around faults in hardware. It is also possible to guarantee the security relationship of inputs and outputs on shared devices. This chips could easily perform Exaflop scale computation if widely deployed.
    4> Cold fusion and/or Wiffleball Fusor - This could go a long way towards solving our dependence on fossil fuels.
    5> Mesh networking on a large scale - We need to take the internet back into our hands

  • Both have totally tanked in the last 5 years. There are examples, but they seem tepid. The technology industry seems very focused on cornering markets, eliminating competition and then diminishing choice and raising prices. At best its minor innovation with maximum price extraction.

  • Here's a short list. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jd ( 1658 ) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {kapimi}> on Saturday February 10, 2018 @06:57PM (#56101653) Homepage Journal

    Abandoned Systems:

    1. Transputer

    The Transputer was a computer on a chip with four networking ports. You built clusters by linking one pin on one to one pin on another. That's it. You could have external memory to bring it up to whatever capacity you wanted. It ran a high-level language - Occam - at almost instruction-set level (your compiler was really an assembler). A modern version running at 3 GHz, with FPU, with multiple cores on each chip, would be incredibly powerful. No need for expensive SMP chips to run distinct CPUs, everything's on a local bus, your PC would be a lot cheaper and a lot more compact. Your smartphone would also be running at a decent speed. USB would be running at the same speed as PCI Express.

    2. Processor In Memory

    This is basically the Transputer turned inside-out. Instead of having your main memory on the CPU, have part of the CPU inside the memory. Reduced latency, increased performance, reduced chip count. Seymour Cray's ambition was to have MPI built into RAM. A glance at CiteseerX shows other efforts have tried to put the BLAST genetic search system into RAM. Not sure on the latter, but there are obvious benefits to putting very standard libraries there. I'd probably look at the Hoard malloc replacement (an obvious thing for RAM to take care of) and maybe something like the Oil library - very common functions that need to be very fast and everyone gets wrong.

    3. Content Addressable Memory

    There have been attempts to have RAM chips that could act as databases, where instead of giving a location, you gave it a key field and it would retrieve the contents regardless of where in RAM it was. CAM would be incredibly useful as an add-on to modern computers, NoSQL on a chip.

    4. Postscript As A GUI

    There was an attempt to build an X11 alternative, and then an X11 WM, around Postscript. If you're wanting to do vectors rather than pixels, it is a much better way to go. If you are wanting a WM for wordprocessing rather than web surfing or games, why pay the huge overhead involved in the current approach? Computers should always be about empowering choice.

    5. True Mobile IP

    When IPv6 was first developed, the early protocol (and so the early stacks) implemented a form of Mobile IP. This form allowed you to move from one network to another and remain connected to things. You temporarily had two IP addresses and upstream routers NATted the old one to the new one. (Which means IPv6 supported NAT, for those curious about such things.)

    This was intended for car-to-car networks (which constantly shift topology), networks on trains or aircraft (since the vehicle changes hotspot) and other contexts that we've now had to invent thousands of new wheels to handle (poorly) because the technology was removed. It was removed not out of privacy concerns (we now know we were all being spied on anyway, and this might have actually increased privacy by destroying the associations we now know they were using) but because Microsoft lobbied against anything that might hurt their sales.

    6. Wafer-Scale Integratrion

    It is possible to place maybe 512 chips on a single wafer and disable the ones that don't work (as per Sir Clive Sinclair's idea for WSI in the 80s). That's a lot of chips. And, now we know how to cheaply make large quantities of ultra-pure Si-28, a lot of chips with a very low failure rate. You don't need to imagine a Beowulf Cluster of these, they ARE a Beowulf Cluster! A supercomputer not much larger than a DVD. Obviously, the Transputer idea would combine well with this. Or you can design it as Flash and put 11.1-channel 24-bit audio, UHDTV video onto it, have half your movie collection at a quality you can barely imagine or use on one cartridge.

    7. Big, Properly-Sprung Keyboards

    I hate touchscreens, I loathe the cheap plastic toys they use for computers and I totally despise laptop keyboards. Give me a well-spaced, big, keyboard where keys go thunk and Mean It. Something robust. Something that can handle my typing speed without it making more mistakes than I do.

    Variants On Systems

    1. Generic Off-loading Card

    What I'm thinking here is a card that has its own custom CPU, memory and Flash. You upload the stack of your dreams to the card and this operates in parallel to any stack that's already built into ASIC there. My preference would be Linux' Netfilter + QoS + TCP/IP as a single isolated whole that you drop in. Payloads would be pulled and pushed via DMA rather than go through the OS. It deals with the problem of buggy implementations, because it's software. It would be an option, so those who don't like it don't have to have it and those who don't like the kernel doing everything don't have to put up with that either. Everyone gets a choice.

    2. Proper Multicast

    I remember watching a European soccer match using NV, and the Mir-Shuttle docking using the MBone VAT/RAT suite. Real colour TV-quality multicasts over the public Internet in an age when CU-SeeMe was still black-and-white and 320x200 pixels connecting to a reflector limiting you to six total participants. These tools were amazing. I could multicast any window I liked, so if I wanted to teach, I could multicast Word or Excel output just as easily as I could multicast the video feed. Gave this as a demo to the chancellor of the university, Lord Flowers. He seemed impressed, although it's hard to tell with lords. These days, IPTV uses multicast. You watch what others tell you to watch. How's that for progress.

    The protocols, in the meantime, have improved enormously, as have the languages. NV and the MICE Mbone tools used Tcl/Tk for the GUI. We can do a bit better and remain just as portable. NORM and FLUTE are able to reliably transfer files by multicast, so you don't need to connect to neighbours in a Peer-to-Peer point-to-point, you can just chuck 'em onto the net, the protocol will take care of repairs and any arbitrary number can download them. There's no central server to get seed values from, no discovery latency, and tracing becomes much more difficult because there's nothing in the packets to identify a destination only a group.

    New Systems

    1. ASIC Expansion Cards

    Chip manufacturing is expensive, chip purchases are slow, there's plenty of spare capacity. So have an expansion card with eight empty sockets in it where you can buy ASICs for something you want to accelerate. The ASICs would need to be cheap, but you can mass produce them in these plants. I mean, if you can put 512 CPUs onto a wafer, think how many ASICs encoding the ATLAS linear algebra library you could put on, or any other popular library.

    Get people back into thinking computers can be fast. Currently, they crawl. That just isn't ok. Make them absurdly fast. Back in the early 90s, computers were idle 95% of the time because humans were too slow. These days, I have to wait 8-10 seconds between key presses on my phone and I can out-type my HP laptop with ease. This should not be possible. If a 25 MHz processor is idle most of the time, why is a 2.5 GHz processor unable to respond?

    2. Proper Digital Cameras

    The excuses, jokes, of cameras on phones and tablets are pathetic. And that's what the world is relying on. My 1976 25mm is so vastly superior that it's not funny. It's just hard to find decent film stock and getting harder. I want a digital camera that is HDR, 75 megapixels (same resolution as good film stock for said 25mm), produces a good image rather than a blurred one calculated to hide imperfections, doesn't store in lossy formats (I don't care what I can see when it's shrunk, I want good data and I want it NOW), and can store just as many images of this quality as my 25mm can.

    If I have to build the damn thing, I will. And I will make it 5 colour band rather than a rather poor approximation of 3 in the process because I'm like that.

    • by Misagon ( 1135 )

      1. Transputer
      Check out:
      * The REX Neo architecture []
      * Coherent Logix' HyperX [] (not to be confused with the PC component brand)

      4. Postscript As A GUI
      Postscript is a Turing-complete language running in a virtual machine. Code injection vulnerabilities in PDF is a real thing that you want to avoid.
      * Isn't MacOS X's drawing model still based on Display Postscript?
      * GTK+ uses the Cairo library for its rendering, and it also has PS and PDF backends that might satisfy many needs.

      Smart objects on the display server si

  • Title says it all.

  • I think it is fairly obvious what is missing. Today's technology lacks the software quality and build quality that it once had. I remember when a 640K computer was considered really advanced. Since hardware wasn't cheap and resources scarce, software had to be carefully written and debugged so crashes were rare and software was generally more stable. Fast forward to today and we accept crashes and bugs so easily. Stuff is built cheaply and poorly. Of course, computing has become much more complex with multi
  • 1. software that can be mathematically proven correct and secure

    2. a programming environment that's actually productive.
    - no worrying about syntax. Let the software handle the syntax. Why do I need to deal with it? Let me enter the code whichever way and auto-convert it between languages as needed.
    - no worrying about optimization. Software handles it, like a JIT compiler that experiments with different implementations and picks the fastest one.
    - no worrying about parallelization. Software handles it. I

  • Consumers are now just given a lot of hardware that is essentially a walled garden. It seems like manufacturers don't want to allow the people whom buy their products any freedom to get really creative with them. I miss the days when manufacturers encouraged their user bases to tinker to their heart's delight. Entire groups and lifestyles grew around these forms of innovations. Nowadays manufacturers want dictatorial control over products that you purchased. In fact, you don't even really own what you've pu
  • by spywhere ( 824072 ) on Saturday February 10, 2018 @07:36PM (#56101775)
    M$ MapPoint and Streets & Trips were excellent packages for creating far more detailed, customized maps and travel plans than you can create in Google Maps.
    Sure, they had their drawbacks -- chief among them being the static nature of their mapping information -- but they did things that Google never replaced.

    Someone should create a front-end like that for Google Maps data, so we could tailor up-to-date mapping data to meet our actual needs.
  • Privacy.
    More ram, more OS/app/display gpu color support, more cpu, more network bandwidth.
    Crypto that works and is not a backdoor, trapdoor for the creator, police, mil, gov.
    Color that works from a game creators code to the users OS, to the gpu, to the display.
    Color that works from a dslr brand to an OS, to an app, to a display.
    An OS that is not designed to report back on a user.
    A cpu thats tested when designed and not sold with security problems for generations.
  • I want cookies. I like oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies. Can I get homemade-style oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips instead of raisins? No, not unless I make them myself. I live in a big metropolitan area and no one makes these? There's no app I can use to tell people to make these for me.

  • by jab ( 9153 ) on Saturday February 10, 2018 @08:03PM (#56101877) Homepage

    Cordless power tools typically use interchangeable lithium ion battery packs. There's a few different systems out there from Ryobi, Ridgid, Milwaukee, Makita, etc. It's not just impact hammers and drills; there are fans, radios, lights, hedge trimmers, garage door openers. Some of these companies support dozens of tools. Many of these tools see daily use by professionals, but a lot are sold to home owners and hobbyists where most of their time is spent sitting on a shelf. The battery packs are reasonably big, 70 watt-hours are not uncommon.

    I cannot for the life of me figure out why these companies don't offer a combination charger + uninterruptible power supply as part of their pantheon of tools. That way these battery packs could be doing something useful by providing emergency backup power to an electrical device, when they aren't being actively used in another tool.

  • by Goldsmith ( 561202 ) on Saturday February 10, 2018 @08:28PM (#56101967)

    We need to stop calling concierge services, entertainment, and financial services "tech." It was fine 20 years ago, but we're past that now.

    Outside of pharma, new companies based on actual new science are few and far between. There are measures associated with this: percentage of science phds staying in science (10-15%), research efficiency (inflation adjusted economic output of $1 of "basic research" has been going down for 30 years), market segmentation of new business investment markets (lots of service apps, some bio hardware & wetware, statistically nothing starting from chemistry and physics)...

    A lot of the comments here are focused on the negatives of the current label of "tech." Privacy, for example, has little to do with technology, but everything to do with marketing and advertising. Google and Facebook are now marketing and advertising companies, not tech companies. (10-20 years ago they were tech companies, but it's time to update that definition.)

    There are plenty of things like solar fuel, advanced nuclear reactors, and brain interfaces that we're good enough at doing in research labs right now to commercialize. For various reasons, the economics don't work to actually invest in commercialization on science based products.

    The exception is pharma, and only because the high prices of drugs in the US can sometimes give a return.

    Changing the definition of "tech" won't change these economics, but right now big increases in investment in entertainment and advertising are hiding a real economic weakness in science.

  • More hardware switches, knobs, sliders, buttons, real keyboards.

    And less slow as hell unresponsive fragile touch screens.

    At work we now havee those awful touchscreen elevator controls. You have to enter the floor number and it tells you what elevator to take (there are 6).

    Problem is the interface is sluggish, doesn't record half the keypresses, and those morons had the great idea to put a 0-9 keypad on the screen, while there are only 11 floors! Wow! There is more than enough space to put eleven BIG buttons

  • ... is missing.

    Why the fuck can people click on a link in an email and get hammered.

    You and I know better.

    A computer ought to know damned well better.

    All this talk about "AI." How come AI can't predict the behaviour that will result if I click on an email link and tell me, "No."?

    Take that idea as a starting point and apply it to a broad range of irresponsible behaviour on the part of users.

  • There are a lot of big answers but here is a very small answer.
    I would like to buy a full size keyboard where the left and the right are not attached to each other. I had a small travel one for a while but it was laptop quality and has since been discontinued. It's such a simple item but it doesn't exist. There are likely thousands of similar items just waiting to be made.

  • We have tech everywhere but nothing to control it. Whether it is controlling how much your kids are on their phones, how much you yourself are on your phone, or just getting all the different tech to work together, the software to manage our tech is severely lacking. Even something simple like technology able to limit kids to 10 hours a week of video games doesn't really exist.

  • by doom ( 14564 )
  • Ironically, information!

    We used to have search engines that provide every result, instead of just those Google thought you'd personally want to see. We used to be able to AND search terms to drill down to just the pages we wanted, instead of Google changing our searches to what it believes we meant.

    We used to have web pages before we had walled gardens. Now you can't search something as basic as a forum, because the forum's design prevents access to outside searches. You can't search private services tha

  • From smallest to biggest:

    1) The Microsoft Intellimouse Optical desktop mouse - It was the perfect wired mouse. All of a sudden, Microsoft stopped making them. There are only Chinese knockoffs of inferior quality out there today. Why couldn't we have good things, Microsoft?

    2) V6 engines in cars for the middle class - Modern V6 engines deliver a ton of power with much better gas mileage than 15-20 years ago, but you can't get them anymore without buying a pricey luxury/sports car.

    3) Nice cars without superflu

    • by Misagon ( 1135 )

      1. Microsoft has recently released a "Classic Intellimouse" with the old shape ... but don't buy it just yet.
      The innards are bad. It does not register small moments at low resolution setting and there is angle snapping which can't be turned off.
      Reviewers have found it unusable for gaming and photo editing.

      3. Agree. Touch-screen in cars could be just as dangerous as cell phone use while driving. Stupid Stupid Stupid.

  • Syncing a phone with a desktop. Like you walk within wifi range and it logs in, syncs music, text, downloads, calendar (moot for me, as I use google calandar, but it opens up third-party tools).

    I'd also like to just have the phone show up as a window on my desktop. So you walk up, open an application, and you can then use your mouse and keyboard on a window that has the phone's screen and you can enter the code and run stuff, etc.

    And while I'll always have a desktop for crunching power reasons, most people

  • by Brian Kendig ( 1959 ) on Sunday February 11, 2018 @11:25AM (#56103973) Homepage

    An email system that's impervious to spam.

    Or, at least, that doesn't happily send a single spam message to millions of recipients.

I've finally learned what "upward compatible" means. It means we get to keep all our old mistakes. -- Dennie van Tassel