Will computers in 2050 finally look like the ones we imagined in the 1950s?

A user on MetaFilter has argued that a well designed item is that which lasts a long time – or, perhaps, an item which the owner values for a long time.

Here’s my response wherein I argue that if the item is fun to use, pretty to look at, and works well for many years after it was purchased, it will keep its value to its owner. (There are items that “work great,” are cheap to buy, but eventually are neither fun to use nor pretty to look at. These are discarded quite easily. Are they good design? Not really.)

I also wondered if requiring 50 year-warranties on items with a certain footprint might be an effective way to promote innovation in the private sector?

What would such a nudge mean for personal computers? They are currently problematic, to say the least, when it comes to waste. Mismanaged waste disrupts the environment, leading to global security issues.

Could we reach a point in the current trend of mass computing where the Internet cloud is so powerful you won’t really need a new terminal every five years but rather can buy a terminal that works great, looks pretty and is fun to use for 20 years? What would computers look like if they came in truly classic and collectible varieties? A ’68 Mustang, an ’83 XJ-6.

Such computers might look like the computers in science fiction movies prior to the 1980s: computers as home appliances, designs meant to last for decades.

Essentially, talking furniture.

While it’s possible to conceive of computers being omnipresent – contact lenses, ear buds – I think we’ll always want a physical anchor, even if it becomes purely symbolic.