Mirror Magazine


Towards human centred computing
Computers were first invented for the purpose of processing large amounts of data and carrying out millions of mathematical functions with an unprecedented degree of accuracy and in a fraction of the time it would take the human mind to complete those tasks. In the decades that followed the invention of this marvellous number crunching machine, the efforts of engineers, scientists, mathematicians and researchers were aimed at increasing their speed, efficiency and power to crunch more and more numbers within a second of time.

Today, as a result of these efforts, the computer has been totally transformed from a 'sluggish monster' full of vacuum tubes occupying entire buildings, into neat, easy-to-use portable devices which in some instances fits perfectly on the palm of its user.

Computers were capable of making the concept of automation a reality at least partially. Even though we are still far from being able to automate our fine dexterities such as human creativity, there are robots capable of assembling cars and simple computers that are capable of flying airplanes with minimal human intervention. Automation of human tasks were expected to result in the loss of millions of jobs but it has so far created more jobs than the number it has made obsolete.

Communication and multimedia
The 1970s saw new uses being conceptualised and researched for the computer in the fields of multimedia and communications capabilities. These dreams were being made true gradually in the years that followed and during the last decade of the second millennium, they reached their climax with the dawn of the Internet. The computer's ability to accept, store, process and output data coupled with its communication capabilities made it an unique tool that made it not only useful, but a vital part of business, education, military and overall social activities. The first networks of computers such as ARPA-NET marked the dawn of a new era of communications technology that has hence been christened as The Information Age.

Computer network technologies have so far evolved in leaps and bounds since those pioneering years. Yet it is sad to note that a fraction of the world population has access to the vast store of knowledge and entertainment offered by these communication networks and those beyond the digital divide (many billions of them) are yet to reap the benefits of this marvelous creation of humanity called the Internet.

The future
The dawn of computer networks has created entirely new mediums of communication that are unprecedented in history. While multimedia and virtual reality have made possible the expression of the most complex of thoughts in a simple and uncomplicated manner, networks have made possible the sharing and access of that information and made available the technologies and capabilities of mass communication to all people.

Thus, the challenges of the future lie not only in the technologies that would make the networks more powerful, but also in areas that would make them more accessible and cost-effective. Networks of the future will have to be more 'intelligent' in order to enable those with little or no technical knowledge to gain meaningful use of them. Challenges have always been the driving force behind human creativity, invention and achievement and it is of little surprise that at this very moment, efforts are being made to overcome those mentioned above. These efforts have a noble purpose; that of making the fruits of human labour throughout the ages, available to all of people regardless of nationality, race or religion or wealth.

The present
We can no longer afford to be satisfied with the performance of our computers and their networks. Even though they may be 'blazing fast' compared to their predecessors, we cannot turn a blind eye on the fact that so much bandwidth and thus so much of communication is lost due to deficiencies in inefficient algorithms and bad addressing and routing practices that rely on the brute force of computers instead of the elegance of mathematics and common sense. If nothing else, they should be easy to use even for the lay user, but those who have tried to install a new internal modem to their new computer would have first-hand experience of the present state of 'user-friendliness' of our systems!

The lack of user-friendliness and the ruggedness of present networks could be attributed partly to the fact that no effort has been made to empower them with 'intelligence' and a working knowledge of human interaction (if indeed any such attempts have been made, they have apparently not succeeded and worse still, they have made matters worse). Networks themselves could be given the power to allocate bandwidth depending on the applications used by their clients and their needs and addressing of the nodes could be done using intentional as well as location based names, thus reducing the complexity associated with addressing nodes from the user's perspective.

With such intelligent networks of computers and very high degrees of automation, the security, scalability, and economy of these systems will be a factor for great concern. One could be forgiven for having reasonable doubts about the feasibility of achieving such goals anytime soon. Besides, the hypothesis that increased flexibility of a system, be it a single computer, any other device or a network could also increase its vulnerability and increased functionality and the higher the capabilities of the system, those would also make it less scalable and naturally far less economical could be justified, again in the short term point of view.

Despite these apparently less feasible objectives, and regardless of whether we achieve all these goals within the next couple of years, we will have to bring about a new era by emphasising the need for human centred computing. It would define a new line of thought that would inspire more concerted efforts to achieve and extend more substantially the objectives and concepts of artificial intelligence. The proposal of a radical new line of thought, the higher degree of expectation and the realistic and steadfast approach that promises to take computing and communications to new heights in the near future will focus on 'human centred computing' and the objective of making computational power freely accessible to everybody. This coupled with the concept of 'doing more by doing less' should form the vital ingredients to drive technology and computer enabled communication to heights unprecedented in the history of the human race.

Ronan has a long goodbye
The Prodigy's Keith Flint's part time group is to make its debut on June 11, at London's Scala.

The part time band which is called Flint will comprise Jim Davies, Kieran Pepper and Tony Howlett. Flint has completed work on its debut album.

Prodigy meanwhile is also expected to release a new album shortly.

The heavy metal rock band Metallica performed at a jail in the US on April 30.

The band played at the San Quentin prison covering a 10 track set. The performance included a live recording of the title track of Metallica's next album called St. Anger. The band's new member Robert Trujillo was part of the show.

San Quentin prison is located north of San Francisco. Metallica also made a US$10,000 donation to the local baseball field fund.

Tomcraft has secured the No: 1 single in the UK this week with the song Loneliness. It's the debut Top 20 hit for Tomcraft and debut No:1.

The song is a trance track huge in Germany and now the UK. The power behind the song is the Munich based producer Thomas Bruckner.

Loneliness ousted the former No: 1 hit You Said So by Busted, and deprived UK soul star Craig David of the prime spot.

As the top three singles positions in the chart are new entries, the song that checked into the No: 2 spot is Rise & Fall by Craig David. It's one of David's biggest hits in over two years. On the new release, former police frontman Sting is the featured artiste. The acoustic guitar melody of Sting's Shape Of My Heart can be heard on Craig David's Rise & Fall. Sting also appears in the video. Craig's last single Hidden Agenda peaked at No: 10 in late January this year.

Irish pop star Ronan Keating's newest single, The Long Goodbye debuted at No: 3. Ronan's song could not match the twists of his other songs. Basically it is a straightforward track that follows his last single, We've Got Tonight - a duet with Lulu.

Can't Nobody is Kelly Rowland's new entry in the UK chart at No:5. It appears the new song will fall short of the success of her previous single Stole. The former single peaked at No:2 in February.

Canadian musician Bryan Adams had a narrow shave while riding a motor bike in East London. He was not involved in any motor mishap but instead had a bullet coming his way.

Adams was with a friend riding down Old Street when he felt a jerk. According to reports, Adams later discovered he had been fired at with a rifle. A hole was discovered in the back of his jacket. Bryan Adams was wearing a helmet and since his identity was concealed, he feels that he was not the specific target.

Courtney Love who was in trouble with the UK law over an air rage incident recently advertised for members to her back-up band. The ex-Hole leader is looking for a bass player and guitarist for her all female act.

The advertisement was placed in the New York Village Voice as Love plans to release a solo album this year.

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