Tomorrow's World -- that slightly eccentric, and now defunct, BBC TV program that used to beam the future of stuff into our living rooms on a Wednesday night -- has a lot to answer for. Not only did it present British ingenuity as charmingly bonkers -- lamp-post-painting machines that never saw the light to high-tech hovercraft that sucked -- it promised a future that was like all the good bits of Blake's Seven. Here were some of the things I was looking forward to. Non-iron shirts. Personal jetpacks. Three-course meals in pill form. Flying cars. Space hotels. The ability to download our memories into some übernet and merge into one, collective consciousness. Small things, really.
What has come to pass is that PCs and computers have, almost, sort of, delivered the futuristic goods. For anyone who remembers Blake's Seven, computers of the future were going to be see-through perspex boxes filled with Christmas-tree lights, and equipped with a sarcastic 'computer voice'. It would also tell jokes. They were rubbish.
Fast-forward to now, and Microsoft is teasing us with a science-fiction future that has made wrestling with my 'iron-free' clothes a more pleasant experience. Dubbed Origami, Microsoft has been offering clues as to how it plans to develop the next-generation of PCs. Origami is said to be an ultra-lightweight PC tablet that is powerful enough to run Windows XP and play the latest games. It connects to Wi-Fi, uses GPS, and generally does everything we've wanted to do on the go, without lugging a flappingly great big laptop around with us.
Time machine on the blink
Of course, as I'm writing this column before Microsoft actually reveals Origami in full, while you're reading it after Microsoft has spilled the beans, being totally accurate may be a little hit-and-miss. I've couched things in vague terms in the hope I can fudge it (of course, I was actually banking on time machines doing the rounds about now when I was a kid, so I'm a bit disappointed on that front, too).
Still, Origami sounds impressive. Pundits reckon this paperback-book-size device will cost £400, and is something we'll carry around with us in rucksacks, handbags and really big pockets. It'll be able to connect to anything, giving true internet-the-go, as well as the ability listen to MP3s. This, says Microsoft, is the future -- and it's a future that doesn't have Christmas-tree lights. It probably won't tell jokes, either.
Personally, it sounds incredible, especially as it has a stylus pen input interface -- and delivers on the promise of cheap, do-anything PCs that wire us together with ease. Origami is also Microsoft's iPod killer -- it will do everything an iPod can do, only better, and for not much more cash. With Origami, the future is about to get interesting.