The tech they promised... and what we got

Summary:From Microsoft's Vista to Web 2.0, technology often falls short of the grand visions spun by marketeers

...on the market two years ago. We're told there are some UWB dongles and some UWB hubs, but we haven't seen anything more than a whole lot of very similar demo set-ups yet.

Out of frustration, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group has decided to produce an alternative fast version of the protocol, based on Wi-Fi. Observers are wondering whether UWB will ever properly arrive.

3. IP version 6

What they promised...
In the early 1990s, IP version 6 wasn't just a good thing. It was vital to the future of humanity. You see, although we had no web then, a lot of us were using the internet, and the number was growing exponentially. We could see the internet was going to be crucial to the way we lived our lives in the future... and it was in danger of breaking.

Each device attached to the internet has its own address, by which the internet's protocols can reach it. Each packet of data on the internet carries a header, like an envelope for a letter, which includes the address to which it goes. The IP protocol, which was on version 4 by the start of the 1990s, only allowed 32 bits for the IP address, which only allowed four billion addresses. This might seem a big number, but they were parcelled out so some companies had millions of addresses. The internet was going to run out of addresses some time in 1994, we were told.

In two years, the internet community scrambled to agree a new protocol, rejecting the formal OSI standards (another IT hype story all of its own) in the process. It added some other features that ought to help with issues such as quality of service, and finally set out IPv6 in 1994, with a 128-bit address space, providing 3.4 x 10^38 addresses, enough for a trillion addresses on each square centimetre of the planet's surface, and then settled back to await the thanks of a grateful world.

Along the way, IPv6 was going to bring all the things we've learned that we need since IPv4 was invented: quality of service control for streamed media, inherent security, manageability, and lots more besides.

... and what we got
While IPv6 was being carefully crafted to avoid the address crunch, everyone became so much more careful about using the ones we already had that, arguably, we still don't really need it. Chances are you're reading this on a machine whose address is, an internal address that will be re-used on millions of home LANs around the world.

During the late 1990s, every year the internet community would invent a new need that they hoped would suddenly require a huge number of addresses, and therefore herald the year of IPv6. One year it was traffic lights, another year it was phones, the next it was the Chinese population.

In fact, IPv6 is sort of there, now. Windows XP has IPv6 as an option, and it's the default protocol in Vista. It's also a tick-list item in router manufacturers' brochures. You won't have noticed.

4. Microsoft Vista

What they promised...
Vista was only supposed to be an interim release, due in 2003, two years after XP arrived. When it became clear that wasn't happening, the company junked what it had and started again, making a desktop OS out of Windows Server 2003, and postponing some of the planned features. It was going to have awesome desktop search features, rich object management through tagging, high-performance revamped graphics, a killer filing system, untouchable security and lashings of compatibility.

...and what we got
In the end, after a five-year gap, Vista appeared. Some said the task-based GUI turned out to be rather like Apple's Aqua interface, or others that it was new for the sake of it.

The other features included higher security with hard disk encryption and new versions of the company's media player and browser — overall a less impressive...

Topics: Tech Industry

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