[Letters] Computer technology’s future

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[Letters] Computer technology’s future

Based on physical and structural restrictions of semiconductors, the “shrinkability” of hardware will hit a definite limit in the near future. On the other hand, human innovation is boundless, and will play the biggest role in paving the path to the future of computing technology. The current programming giants, Microsoft, Apple and Google, each represent a stake in different market niches and stand as one of the most influential history-makers in terms of the short-term future of technology.

Yet, despite these profit-conscious businesses, independent and open computing programmers will continue to thrive and grow in the vein of traditionalist hacker ideals due to the growing complexity and cost of business-created software.

In recent years, Apple has soared past its initial loss to Microsoft in a way that has revolutionized the technologically-savvy niche. Words such as “iPod” or “iTouch” have become ubiquitous in modern diction. With the incorporation of sleek hardware and innovative user interface, Apple has created a loyal base of customers in a niche-friendly market.

In addition, Apple has shown great innovation in terms of its “applications,” which allow the user to run a variety of programs with a wide range of functions, but has implemented a rigid screening policy to ensure that the applications are up to Apple policy.

Microsoft, the biggest name in consumer PCs, depends on the loyalty of enterprises. According to a 2009 report by Forrester, 80 percent of businesses utilize some version of the Microsoft Office Suite, with 64 percent of businesses using the then-latest version of Microsoft 2007. Now with the introduction of the newest Microsoft 2010 Office Suite and the constant stream of Microsoft business applications, consumers can expect a new version within the next five years.

Yet despite their historical impact in the world of computer technology, the above two companies are essentially the archetypes of a profit-motivated innovation, a concept derided by purist hackers such as programmer Richard Greenblatt, who believe “business interests have intruded on a culture that was founded on the ideals of openness and creativity.” As such, the web-giant Google has demonstrated its commitment to the hacker ideals of open programs and the emancipation of intellectual property through applications such as Google Reader, Google Documents and Google Spreadsheet.

Yet companies are not the only history-makers of the computer technology. The hacker ideal present in Google is also ubiquitous elsewhere, in applications such as “torrents” and other file sharing networks in which hackers are able to distribute “cracked” software to users. These networks demonstrate an awareness of the usefulness of big-corporation software and the obstinate hacker belief that information should be freely available. As information becomes more sought-after, there will be an increase in the number of computer users supporting the abrogation of information. These two antagonistic players will continue to feed off each other.

Nonprofit organizations have stepped up to the plate in order to provide a free alternative to expensive, mainstream programs. Some examples are “Gimp,” a GNU image manipulation program and the aptly-named Open Office, “a leading open-source office software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more.”

Microsoft and Apple will continue to feed the logistic and consumerist computer needs of its customers, while Google will keep on encouraging the open flow of information. Each will continue to develop until they face the inevitable clash - but that’s another story to be written in the future.

Kim Yoo-jung,

senior student of Kamiak High School, Washington state, the United States
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