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cbrooks (3267)

cbrooks
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Journal of cbrooks (3267)

Friday December 06, 2002
09:24 AM

The Future of the Operating System

[ #9309 ]
I just moved to NH and earned myself an excruciatingly long commute to work (approx 3 hours a day). The upside is that I have a lot of time to listen to books on tape and, most recently, MP3s. If you are in a similar situation, check out technetcast.com -- the site is presented by Dr. Dobb's Journal, and it has lots of (free) technical conference presentations available on MP3.

Yesterday, I listened to Richard Rashid, VP of Research at Microsoft give a very interesting presentation on the future of the OS. He argues that the essential concepts of the modern OS: hierarchical file systems and user-initiated execution of programs are artifacts of the computers that we had 30 years ago. Computers today are some 40 million times more powerful, and storage capacity is approaching the point that a person could record and store every conversation that they have from birth to death on a single hard drive. Rashid envisions a shift towards interacting with your OS primarily through google-style query mechanisms, rather than a filesystem. The OS would be smart enough to initiate programs on its own, rather than waiting for user input. Obviously, OSes would have a host of new (or at least dramatically improved) input devices, such as speech recognition and handwriting recognition. Perhaps more dramatically, broad spectrum language parsers would have an increasing role in the background to prioritize and categorize documents, email, spoken conversations, etc., and then react without an explicit request from the user.

Anyway, it is a thoughtful talk -- certainly worth a listen.
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  • but, my flying car has taken care of that.

    Seriously, talking about computers being 40 Million times more powerful leads to some pretty silly conclusions.

    While raw computing power may have improved 40 Million times, programming has not advanced anywhere nearly as much. I would hardly trust Windows (or even Unix) systems to do a lot of launching programs based on what it "thinks" I need, or trusting that it really gets the gist of my natural language request. I could see this really getting out of hand, o

    • >This technetcast is quite a find!

      It's pretty darned cool.

      >talking about computers being 40 Million times more powerful leads to some pretty silly conclusions.

      Take a listen to the talk. Rashid is not making the argument that improved processing speed / storage capacity magically allow us to develop cool stuff. His argument (perhaps poorly summarized by me) is that the choices that OS designers made may have been reasonable 2-3 decades ago. However, partly because of processing and storage imp