This entry summarizes major topics that drive the computer and consumer electronics industries. It is a brief summary of current topics as well as relevant history. See buzzword
In the 2020s, the world is waking up to the fact that chips are everywhere, and they are the foundational components required to run nearly everything. The actual working area of the smallest chip is no larger than the head of a pin, and the largest chip is the size of a postage stamp. Their operation borders on sheer magic (see active area
). See chip
and chip manufacturing
Crypto, Blockchains and Web3
The latest craze is the blockchain, which is the architecture of Bitcoin, Ethereum and countless other cryptocurrencies. Touted as revolutionary as the Internet, although it relies entirely on the Internet, time will tell whether this changes most financial systems. Web3 is the latest moniker for non-centralized, blockchain-based applications (see Web3
). See crypto
, Bitcoin vs. Ethereum
and crypto glossary
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
The 21st century is the true manifestation of artificial intelligence for the masses. AI is making every device smarter and often easier to use. In the 2030-2040 time frame, AI will be way more advanced than it is today, and by 2050, routine activites in developed countries may not resemble daily life in 2020. See AI
, virtual assistant
Virtual/Augmented Reality and Metaverse
Goggles-based virtual reality (VR) games are bringing gaming to a new dimension. Augmented reality (AR) is used for both fun and information. The metaverse is being touted as the 3D future. See metaverse
, virtual reality
and augmented reality
Big data refers to making sense out of the huge amount of data companies have amassed and continue to generate. Finding patterns in that data that lead to streamlining inventory, manufacturing, sales and marketing is the latest analytical chore for large organizations. Big data has embraced artificial intelligence (AI) to better analyze the massive amounts of content (see AI
). See big data
Twitter, Facebook and other social sites changed the world of human interaction, allowing everyone to stay in touch. Every website and software application has a social component that lets people share what they see, hear or watch with friends, family and colleagues.
However, there is a downside. Feelings, images and videos posted on the Internet might remain online forever. In addition, social sites along with search engines know more about you than you may wish. They use your information to target ads, spot trends and most importantly to earn billions in revenue. Social sites such as Omlet buck the trend and allow users to retain control over what they post. Snapchat makes images disappear on the recipient's device after a short time to keep information private. See Facebook
Smartphones - Truly Personal
One year after the introduction of the iPhone, Apple's App Store revolutionized the smartphone industry and people's lives forever. No device has become more useful or more personal than the smartphone with its overabundance of software applications.
Google followed with its Android platform. Due to Android's embrace of multiple carriers and hardware vendors (iPhone was only AT&T at the onset) and ever increasing screen sizes, Android became the #1 smartphone vendor worldwide by a huge margin. Windows-based phones made a small dent but were abandoned, and although BlackBerrys were the first smartphones, new models failed to keep people in the fold (see BlackBerry 10
). See iPhone
, Windows Phone
Since the turn of the century, the Web has become a global platform for publishing information. "User-generated content" is a major feature of Web 2.0, whereby anyone can publish anything on a blog, social network or wiki. In addition, applications running in a Web browser increasingly have the performance, look and feel of traditional apps that previously had to be installed in the user's computer. See user-generated content
and social networking service
.See Web 2.0
and cloud computing
Cloud computing refers to renting servers and applications over the Internet instead of installing them locally. Cloud computing is a huge business in the 21st century. See cloud computing
For better or worse, we are immersed in wireless communications. AM, FM, TV, satellite, GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and cellular radiate everywhere. With a home router and Wi-Fi, music and video signals are bouncing all over the house at ever-increasing frequencies. Unfortunately, some people are very sensitive to the radiation (see electromagnetic hypersensitivity
). See wireless LAN
, Wi-Fi hotspot
, cellular generations
and wireless glossary
Nothing in the computer/communications industries ever came onto the scene with more momentum than the Internet and the World Wide Web. The Web's hyperlink, an address that points to another Web page on the same server or on any server in the world, interlinked planet earth like nothing before it.
As the Web embraced e-commerce, every company rethought its strategies for sales and customer relations. Practically every software product was affected, and every application was reworked to deal with the Web in some manner. Now that the Internet is available on billions of smartphones and tablets, access to Web-based content is even more ubiquitous. With video streaming, video calling and voice over IP (VoIP), the Internet has become the global communications backbone. Myriad opportunities arise from the fact that one can look at as well as operate "anything from anywhere." See Internet
, World Wide Web
, cable Internet
and IP on Everything
Client and Server
The trend in the late 1980s and early 1990s was to migrate information systems from terminals connected to centralized (mostly IBM) mainframes to a client/server architecture. The clients are generally Windows-based PCs, and the servers run Windows, Unix or Linux. A major incentive for the change was the huge amount of applications and sources for PC hardware.
Along came the Web, and the client part of client/server became the Web browser, which provides a platform-independent, universal interface for accessing data and running applications. As mobile devices became ubiquitous, the smartphone and tablet became the clients. No matter the devices used, there is always a client and server relationship. See client/server
Networking is the lifeblood of an organization's high-tech infrastructure. Local applications combined with Internet applications and services increasingly place heavy demands on the network. In addition, tying networks together when companies expand or merge is a huge task for network administrators. Starting in the mid-1990s, three trends took place: #1 - Ethernet switches replaced Ethernet hubs to increase bandwidth, #2 - network backbones were upgraded to Gigabit Ethernet and 10 Gigabit Ethernet, and #3 - the network protocol migrated to TCP/IP, the standard of the Internet. See enterprise networking
, Ethernet switch
, Gigabit Ethernet
, 10 Gigabit Ethernet
In the early 1990s, the pioneering collaboration applications under the "groupware" moniker were Lotus Notes, GroupWise and Microsoft Exchange, which included email, document sharing and group calendaring and scheduling.
Today, a collaboration component is available in many applications used to create documents, which enable two or more people to write, draw and comment together in real time on a project. Applications such as Slack and Cliq are designed specifically for project collaboration, offering text, audio and video chat and document storage. See collaborative browsing
The price of hardware continues to plummet. Each year, we get more computer per dollar than we did the year before. A full-blown Windows PC can be purchased for under $1,000 and entry-level machines for under $400. Hardware seems cheap, but this is misleading, because software is not always a bargain.
Although there is a vast amount of off-the-shelf software packages for myriad requirements, even the smallest organizations have special needs. Custom programming ranges from $75 to $150 an hour, and consultants cost $150 to $300 an hour. Add up a few weeks of third-party people time, and the cost of hardware looks like chump change.
Half the Equation
This adage has been used in the computer field for decades but is only a partial truth. Hardware may be cheap but software and systems development are not.