Thirty-two-bit systems hardware and software replaced by 64-bit models. FireWire interface giving up to USB3.0. Multimedia projectors largely supplanted by TV screens. Printers and scanners giving way to original digital, soft-format contents. These are five of the transformations that are occurring in the world of IT.
Beside the spectacular, dazzling changes that chiefly involve smartphones and tablets, we are currently experiencing other changes that are taking place smoothly, silently, slowly.
They are shaping our world and the way we interact with technology. As the last thirty years have shown, the only fixed rule in computer technology is that things will irremediably change.
Of the above five mentioned elements, 32-bit systems, FireWire, multimedia projectors, printers and scanners, the first two are about to become completely phased out. The last three aren't exactly about to die but newer, better technology, along with new ways to work, are all significantly reducing and limiting their usage, and consequently their sales.
What's in a 64-bit system? The number sounds impressive, but in itself does not exactly tell about the speed of a computer or of a piece of software.
Well, actually it does it but indirectly! A computer processor works based on what is known as a clock rate. That clock works on a specific cycle; one can think of it as the processor's main timing or rhythm if one prefers.
A 64-bit system treats information 64 bits per cycle, therefore twice as fast as a system that has the same cycle rate and that works at 32-bit. Naturally the faster the clock rate, the shorter the cycle and the faster the computer, overall.
The first personal computers, circa 1980, used to process information at the humble rate of 8 bits per cycle and were therefore called 8-bit computers. Then 16-bit machines were introduced in the mid-1980s by
From 16, the industry moved up to 32 and now the mainstream is 64. There already questions about 128-bit systems, but there seems no indication as to when this could actually take place within the industry.
Software following hardware, both going hand-in-hand, we also speak of 64-bit programmes, be it MS-Windows, Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop or others.
Today's demanding applications require 64-bit processing. Moreover having a 64-bit system is important for it makes better use of the memory you would give it to work. The "old" 32-bit Windows for example can only use up to 3GB of memory. To break this barrier and use more memory 64-bit is essential.
Today when buying software, the user is given the option between the 32-bit and the 64-bit versions of the same application. The trend however is such that very soon only 64-bit version will be available. It is a matter of a year or two.
FireWire, also known as IEEE1394, is a communication interface, that, just like USB for instance, lets the user connect external equipment to a computer and transfer data, copy files, etc.
First introduced by Apple several years ago, it was made to compete with USB2.0. Though theoretically not faster than USB2.0, FireWire does provide better stability over long, heavy data transfers like high definition video for instance. But we know the story, USB won and became a successful world standard.
Today with USB3.0 that is significantly faster than FireWire or USB2.0 for that matter, FireWire is virtually gone.
Users who still own a camcorder with a FireWire connection complain that they cannot connect it to the new laptops for the latter lack FireWire. The solution? Get an older laptop with FireWire or discard the camcorder and buy a new one with a newer interface.
Multimedia projectors are a different story. Nothing says that they are going to disappear like 32-bit systems or FireWire. However the progress of large screen flat TVs, mainly of the LED type, combined with a drastic price drop is enticing users to connect computers to a large TV instead of using a projector.
The image is sharper, more contrasted and there is no need to dim the light, to adjust the focus, clean the lens, replace the lamp, etc. Multimedia projectors will stay around for a while but their market has lost more than 60 per cent of its size over the last two years.
Printers and scanners are in the same category as multimedia projectors. We can't really say that they are disappearing, but their usage is noticeably reduced today.
The overwhelming number of documents of all kinds is being generated, circulated, exchanged and viewed electronically.
Who then needs a printer? Perhaps businesses still need to print invoices today but this method too is being questioned and will soon be replaced with electronic invoices that everyone, including banks and even the tax system, will accept and recognise as official, legal documents.
Scanners have so far been very popular, for they let you digitise available prints or photos. For the same reason cited above, now all photos are "born" in already digital format, just like most of the documents we write and exchange. Scanners may still be around for a while, but over the last five years, their usage and their sales have dropped by some 75 per cent.
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