I'm currently reading loads of old 1980's computer magazines after discovering my stash of them under a pile of books in the garage. I didn't realise at the time just how much of a step into the unknown computers were for people as a whole, the computer industry was viewed with excited scepticism coupled with a boom and bust mentality as company after company produced the latest computer only to go to the wall a year later. Between 1981-86 losses were high, Jupiter Cantab, Mattel, Texas, Oric and even Sinclair by 1986 were defunct although by this time computers were becoming common home entertainment systems. Of course there were several notable names that changed the face of computing completely, Microsoft and Apple for example all active around this period and growing in size. Would you believe it Apple was already flinging around lawsuits at this early stage according to the news sections.
Anyway, around Christmas time they always had a review of the coming year and a stab at the future in computing technology. There were many things written that make me chortle today. For example one journalist suggested that the mouse was dead as a computer accessory almost as soon as it appeared, another predicted that by 2000 we would all be downloading our software from the Teletext service and communicating via Prestel, a kind of Internet of its day if it was bought from a pound shop. Some predicted a future where word processors would correct your spelling and grammar, this derived much critism from many readers who refused to believe that computers would ever be able to do this effectively but then the same readers went on to agree that we face a future in which robots played a big role around the house entrusting robots with the complex task of vacuum cleaning.
One magazine set aside ten pages to describe a futuristic computer heaven and for the most got it all entirely wrong apart from one small section that even they said was a little outlandish, a section that described a small tablet shaped computer that we could carry around and use like a piece of paper to record documents and view plug-in films, possibly with a VHS attachment. It was not too far fetched, in 1983 Sinclair Research was already looking to create the first affordable flat screen television and there were rumours that the new CD formats that were just beginning to see the light of day could herald a new storage solution although at this time nobody had any idea how this would work. The small tablet described was also capable of simple communication through a modem and telephone system allowing international communication as long as you could afford the phone bills. It all sounded so far fetched.
Yesterday I stood in the very same Tesco's that I used to purchase the computer magazines from thirty years ago and pondered the small box I had picked up. It was this...
I pulled out my small tablet which we now know as a smart phone and thought back to the article I had recently read, not bad I thought, they did come pretty close. I used its inbuilt communication system to surf the world via the internet to gather information from the international community so to speak to confirm that indeed I was looking at another leap in technology that would make me chortle with delight. A Chromecast.
Chromecast was released in the USA In 2013, it only really made it across to these shores a few months ago and supplies were initially limited. The Chromcast is a £30 piece of kit that plugs into the HDMI socket of your television that allows you to stream music, video, photos and numerous other compatable services directly to your television from smartphones, tablets or standalone computers via your wifi network. Apple already has a more sophisticated version of this but the beauty of the Google Chromecast is it's initial impulse purchase price and it's projected degree of flexibility. It's simple to use and within five minutes I had it up and running with no problems whatsoever.
Coupled with apps and websites like Netflix and BBC iPlayer it's outstanding, simply press the icon on the screen and the movie or episode you are watching is 'cast' onto your television in 1080p, simple in application and execution. It certainly has revolutionised the little television I do watch, now I can avoid the adverts altogether and edit my own schedule before casting it to television. I can imagine it would be even more useful in multi set households where every television can have its own Chromecast and different media can be cast to different screens in the same house. One app allows you to set up a party wall on your television containing a unique code, this code when entered on another phone or smart tablet allows photos to be cast onto a shared screen. Imagine doing this at a party or an event for example where everyone has the code on their phone so everyone's photos get bundled together to create an ever changing video wall of memories which it automatically converts into a film of the night, how cool is that?
This apparently is just the start, the SDK or developers kit for the Chromecast has just been made widely available so expect more and more apps and websites to start to integrate it into their products in the following months. If you do get chance and you don't have an internet enabled television check it out, for £30 it really is quite remarkable.