In 2003, many of the news sources were challenging the need for the latest device that had just come out from Intel - a 2.0 gigahertz Pentium CPU. The question of the day was "Do we really need something that fast?" I laughed. The obvious answer is Yes!
Sitting in a restaurant during a Denver snowstorm in January of 1994, a
co-worker asked me how could I manage to stay current with Technology? Why? Because
there's 20 new gadgets a day in the news.
After thinking about it overnight, I realized what my answer was.
Call me a dreamer, but on Star Trek, they have a device called a Holodeck. If you think about it for a minute, there's a computer behind there that runs the Holodeck. It computes and displays a real-time interactive holographic scene along with controlling force fields sufficient to mimic the touch of actual objects. Then, add a siginificant portion of the entirety of recorded human history, plus an interface capable of understanding the nuances of human speech.
When I can have a 'computer' that complex, that fast, to use as my 'notebook computer', then I'll be happy.
And, on Star Trek, the computer core occupies like six floors worth of space. I'm talking about a step beyond even that - wanting all that power in a portable notebook. With a big battery!
The real answer to the 'staying current' question is that I have a vision for the future, and it's far beyond what the 'toys' we have available today can provide for us. Even the latest and greatest 3.2ghz CPU (2005) is still, according to Spock, 'stone knives and bearskins'.
No new technology really surprises me, because I dream of a 'standard' that is far beyond anything we have available today. Any 'new' advancement in computing is really to me just another step along a very long path in front of us.
How powerful of a computer are we talking about? Let's first look at digital storage of holograms.
Generating holograms is an entirely different subject:
The phase angle from the reflection of a beam of light at every point in the environment has to computed and summed to build the necessary interference patterns for each pixel of the frame. This is a considerably more complex (although similiar) calculation than necessary for 2D rendering.
For the 1995 release of Toy Story, five hours of computer time were required per frame to render the movie. In 2001, (with faster computers) Shrek was estimated to require ten times that amount per frame, due to independently moving hairs, blades of grass, etc.. And that's just for a 2D rendering!
In one of my (many) college calculus classes (1975?), I remember looking up on the wall and seeing a 120x120pixel printout of a computer-generated hologram. It required hours of mainframe computer time to calculate using a technique called 'fast fourier transform'.
If you want immersive, "real looking" 3d environments, it would take "a bit more processing power" than we have available today. Bring on the speed! Bring on the bandwidth!
Not to mention storage space. Even at the highest densities we have available to us today, it'd require 45 station wagons to haul the movie across town to your friend's house.
Stony Smith, c 2005, updated periodically