When I read Pat Cadigan’s Synners back in the early 90s I thought about what technological advances would be needed to get there. I understood basic electronics, having taken it in high school, and had been using computers since a 12″ CRT, cassette drive, analog coupler & 4K were a big deal & cost over $1000. So, I had a fairly good idea, except not knowing how we would achieve the flexible TFT screens considering they were encased in glass, and a lot of problems with power & complexity. I also read Sterling, Gibson, Rucker & Stephenson which also influenced my thinking about technical (and social) advances (regressions).
Since then there’s been many advances that move us closer to what was a pure fantasy. Miniaturization of components and SoCs as small as your pinky nail were easily predictable. Tuning audio for a room in seconds was foreseeable, and a lot of ideas I could see coming to shape right on time or even before. This digital world lives in a trans-dimensional plane that can express all possible dimensions by its nature of having no dimensions—what I think of as the “all in none” paradox that got this universe started in the first place. So, aside from imagination of what to program into it, what sort of media people would consume, the only limit was physical. New materials and chemical processes are making the fundamental plane on which our interconnected digital world more flexible and more fantastic. For a very LONG time the race has been to offer flexible displays. This year the first mass market flexible display came out. But still the device it is embedded in, is not. Once someone puts 2 & 2 together at Apple or Google, there will be a product that does to the smartphone what the tablet did to the desktop & laptop.
There are a lot of well educated people — far more educated in engineering, computer science, and chemistry than I am working on this stuff daily out of the eye of the media until a breakthrough is made that no one sees the ramifications of unless you had a near future world sketched out for you by Science Fiction authors. Everything from Clockwork Orange predicting designer drugs sold legally as easily available as milk, and the corporate war on citizen right to freedom and equal access which was the backdrop of many a future-punk dystopia. At the time “Cyber” meant “internet” and not “tele-sex.” (Although if it was called “Sexpunk” I’m pretty sure it might have been more successful a genre?)
So, what does all this have to do with Textiletronics? Well, if you read Synners: everything about seeing when the pieces were in place for something from her world would be possible. The past 5 years marked the most advances in both consumer availability and lab advances in materials & manufacturing. Corning now has glass fiber optics you can wind around your fingers. Along with conductive thread & pourable, flexible circuitry and pixels, the next revolution in personal electronics is on track for a decade finish. As I said, A lot of smart people. And if you still don’t get it, check out nano bladders, Pat’s “SF Masterwork” Synners… Or ask me, if you can make it happen.