If you’ve been keeping an eye on the Technology News section of the BBC website recently (can’t recommend it strongly enough), you’ll know that scientists in Switzerland have carried out successful tests on a new semiconductor that could prove to be a rival to silicon in producing microchips.
The substance is called molybdenite, or MoS2, and was chosen in part because it is very readily available. It is already used as an ingredient in engine lubricants, ski waxes and as a strengthening agent for plastics. Not only this but, because it is less likely to oxidise than silicon, it can be used in thinner layers, meaning smaller chips for everyone. These chips are also more flexible, AND they require less energy to function than current silicon chips.
This may sound too good to be true. And in a way it is, because the MoS2 chips are currently extremely labour-intensive to produce. Researchers have said they believe it will be another ten to twenty years before it starts getting made and used commercially.
With that in mind, we thought we’d take a look at the evolution of some of the technologies of the last ten years that have been made possible by silicon microchips, and what we might be able to expect from them in the future (before they get replaced, anyway).
Computers and the Internet
THEN – Wikipedia founded 15th Jan 2001, and on 20th April Dell computers became the largest PC maker.
NOW – It’s all about tablets and laptops, as the iPad 2 and competitors such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab and the Asus Eee pad take first Christmas, then the world, by storm.
FUTURE – All computing to take place on super-thin tablets, with data storage dealt with by the cloud and all other components (monitors, keyboards etc) connected wirelessly.
THEN – It may look quite retro, but the arrival of the Samsung SGH-M100 MP3 phone in 2001 signaled the start of the trend of gadget convergence that we expect as the norm nowadays.
NOW – You just wouldn’t buy a mobile for that didn’t also have an MP3 player, Camera and internet connection. In fact, for many, the phone functionality isn’t even a consideration.
FUTURE – Samsung has already spoken of their intention to bring flexible phone to market in the near future. This still seems like an outlandish idea but could well be a revolutionary development. It’ll be very interest to see what the product is like when it’s made available to the public.
THEN – the iPod – the original, first ever iPod – came out a full ten years ago.
NOW – Well, the iPod has yet to be dethroned. Any arguments?
FUTURE – We can picture headphones that have inbuilt chips, wirelessly connecting to a cloud-based music collection. Either that or they’ll be synced up to one of these tablets we’ll all be carrying around.
THEN – Original Xbox released November 15th 2001
NOW – The Playstation 3 is (perhaps arguably) the pinnacle of console gaming as it stands – though the Xbox has recently become competitive again with its Kinect system (a nifty bit of kit)
FUTURE – Techradar have recently scoured the internet to compile all the rumours regarding the next generations of Xbox and Playstation consoles. Beyond those? We can certainly see console gaming becoming integrated into the tablet platform, as the technology required to provide the best performance gets smaller and smaller.
THEN – Pets were just pets, really. Look how boringly cute they are:
NOW – Millions of cats and dogs worldwide have had microchips installed (“installed”? Is that the right word? It sounds so wrong when you’re talking about a cat…), meaning they can be uniquely identified and checked against a database when lost, or even function as a personalised key-fob for cat-flaps.
FUTURE – please let it be K-9, please let it be K-9…
We can only dream…