Computers ain’t what they were

The ill-fated date 9/9/99, which had techies sweating from banking to Qantas, has passed without a glitch.

Home computers still buzz away but if we stop and take a look they’re not quite buzzing the same way they used to.

The home computer traditionally drowned in the sounds of kids playing computer games or, perhaps in a quiet moment, the odd letter was typed or a bit of home accounting got done.

Today, computers are used to shop, pay bills, send mail, file tax returns, do banking, watch movies and if you’re Jeff Kennett you even use it to launch political campaigns.

Legions of computer and software developers see us doing even more with our home computers.

In a recent ABC radio documentary, futurists discussed a new wearable computer which controls body movements via a key pad over the Internet.

Simple control commands were used to make the arms and legs move of a sometimes less than willing researcher.

This opens the mind up to a variety of possible uses not to mention possible human cruelty cases.

Another titbit of interesting new technology is the ‘feelie’ mouse which enables

people to touch objects they see on computer screens.

“It allows the cursor to become an extension of your hand. Anything the cursor touches, you can feel,” chief executive of the Immersion Corporation Lewis Rosenberg said.

He told BBC radio: “The technology allows you to simulate the feel of any type of physical property, whether it be the weight, the stiffness or the texture.”

And, yes, things can feel slippery too.

Representatives of New Scientist magazine agreed, saying that during its testing they could feel the tautness of tennis racket strings and the texture of corduroy. They could even sense how a car handled around bends.

Of course, the first application that comes to mind is not driving a car. It’s common knowledge that the ‘adult’ market is very interested in this new ‘feelie’ mouse, which goes on sale this month in the US for $99.

Having brought this new technology to fore, it’s perhaps best not to even start discussing the Logitech Cordless Mouseman, with its contoured shape and soft material cover.

We’ll just have to hope that the kids remain interested in joy sticks and computer games.

l Raphe Patmore is CEO of Internet consultancy Biz E Planet.

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