Crystal ball reveals lots of activity on the communications front

I’m looking forward to the next millennium, although most people plan to celebrate
it a year early. Astute readers know the start of the new millennium, strictly speaking,
is Jan. 1, 2001, about two years from now.

Within a few years, the only way phone companies will be able to hang onto their
profitability will be to offer high-speed Internet connections everywhere and at much
lower prices.

I predict this will bring about a dramatic increase in telecommuting. Agency managers
will have to alter their job descriptions to include telecommuter management. Many
government office jobs already lend themselves to telecommuting, and the technology is
ready today. All that’s missing is an administrative structure geared to measure
performance, not just attendance.

Better video compression and decompression and faster microprocessors will make
quarter-screen, 20-frame/sec videoconferencing a reality over standard dial-up telephone

Besides low land-line costs, we’ll have low-cost satellite Internet connections.
Recent industry changes have almost halved the cost for occasional use by eliminating the
need to maintain two Internet accounts. Look for satellite prices to stay the same or go
down by 2001.

More good news: 20-inch LCD monitors should cost only about $1,000 two years from now.
Given enough demand, manufacturers can build LCD monitors more cheaply than CRT monitors.
And 20G hard drives will sell for $50 and have removable frames instead of removable

Don’t bet too heavily on any of the removable semi-hard/floppy drives still being
around by 2001. The 120M superfloppy and even 1G removable-media drives just won’t
cut it when the average one-page memo produced by an office suite program takes up 1M of

Did you know a recent version of Corel WordPerfect already consumes 1.2K just to store
“Dear Sirs:”?

Every new car, cellular phone and high-end portable computer will have a Global
Positioning System chip to make it easy to locate lost people or stolen property.

MultigigaFLOPS supercomputers will sell for $50,000, as manufacturers build on the
bright idea of the billion-floating-point-operations/sec boxes strung together at NASA and
Energy Department laboratories.

Motorola Inc. has been working on two-way video and data exchanges at 60 gigahertz; the
signals from satellites to a C-band TV dish are now in the 4-GHz range. A 60-GHz service
would have small antennas spaced every few yards around campuses or office complexes to
exchange signals with tiny antennas in palmtop or desktop PCs. Of course, it’s
dangerous to read your e-mail while you’re crossing the street.

Piano, as Motorola terms the new linkage, looks promising for ships and other closed
environments that need fast, wide-bandwidth, two-way communications. At long last, Dick
Tracy’s wrist TV could finally become reality.  

John McCormick, a free-lance writer and computer consultant, has been working with
computers since the early 1960s. E-mail him at

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