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The translator's computer in the future
Thread poster: Oliver Walter

Oliver Walter  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:33
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
May 18, 2012

I was at the 2012 Lovelace lecture yesterday, given by Hermann Hauser, speaking about computer architectures. He spoke about 5 "waves" of computer architecture and predicted that the present type of PC (Intel processor, Windows operating system, laptop or desktop format etc.) will die out in the coming years. Extract from the synopsis:
"In this talk Dr Hauser will concentrate on the 5th wave of computing and demonstrate the dramatic changes that are associated with a new wave. This always includes the arrival of new players and the spectacular broadening of the user base and uses of computers.

They are not even called computers anymore but smartphones and tablets. There is an improvement in user interfaces which makes the interaction with computers more human and widens their appeal even further.
"
A Flash video of the lecture will soon be on the BCS website (it's not there today), probably accessible from this URL: http://www.bcs.org/category/5931 (If that become invalid, go to http://www.bcs.org/ and search for Lovelace 2012).

Do you have any interesting and/or informed ideas on what a translator's computer will be like in a few years? I imagine a translator will always want a large screen (at least 15 inches/38 cm diagonal) and a keyboard. I like mice (mouses?) but I suppose touch-sensitive screens might replace them. Will voice input ever make it unnecessary to have a real keyboard (with a "soft" one on the screen adequate for the occasional typing that will be required)?

Oliver


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:33
Member (2008)
Italian to English
No progress May 19, 2012

I'm waiting for a computer that makes coffee.

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Adam Pielach  Identity Verified
Poland
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No bigger revolution May 19, 2012

I suppose it won't change in the next 5-10 years considerably. I can't imagine voice-command text editing or touching the screen as it is just impractical. Think of a, for example, 20' display with touch sensor and you will be able to tap wherever you like (as in iPads etc.) and do your day job. It is just uncomfortable to move your fingers across the display and see if you have selected the right part of the text or put the cursor in the desired place.

I think that we will only get more sophisticated and technologically-brimmed software to work with, something like amalgamation of all contemporary tools like that.
Personally, I look forward to see PC's that consume less energy, are thinner, takes less space in the room and look more elegantly, accomodating to the furniture/decor.


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:33
Spanish to English
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Leave well alone May 19, 2012

I suppose this lecturer is only doing his job, but the technology in question is not at all necessary IMO, especially when most of the people I know are even reluctant to upgrade their current hardware owing to money concerns.

As a self-employed translator, I get by fine on my current equipment and dumbphone and my fervent wish is that they will just let us maintain us the current status quo. "New" and "smart" do not necessarily mean "better" from my point of view.

"If it's not broke, don't fix it."


[Edited at 2012-05-19 07:57 GMT]

I'm still fuming about being gavaged with Windows 7 ... 8 months later and I still can't find my way around it as quickly as I could with XP...

[Edited at 2012-05-19 11:12 GMT]


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Oliver Walter  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:33
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Horses for courses May 19, 2012

Tom: There's no computer that makes coffee (even a coffee-making machine that contains a microprocessor is not a "computer"), but most computers can keep your coffee warm, once you've made it - plug in a USB coffee warmer:
http://www.presentsformen.co.uk/-prod9004/
http://www.treather.com/product/office_coffee_warmer (search the Web for "USB coffee warmer".
Here is an espresso maker apparently controlled by a laptop computer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qW_BX446vTo

Hermann Hauser
http://www.computinghistory.org.uk/det/935/Hermann-Hauser/
is an important part of the history of computers. He was one of the founders of the company (Acorn) that produced the BBC Micro - very influential in Britain in the 1980s
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BBC_Micro)
and then of ARM (Advanced RISC machines - RISC = Reduced Instruction-Set Computer) - many current mobile phones contain an ARM processor.

I agree that smartphones and tablets are brilliant for certain purposes but the translator, who needs to see documents and type text, will, for the forseeable future, want a screen, keyboard and mouse more or less functionally the same as now. The other parts of the computer will probably become more powerful, have more memory, take less space and perhaps be cheaper. They may in fact become more expensive because most people's computing needs will be well served by smartphones and tablets, so the market for "conventional" Desktop and Laptop PCs will become smaller.

Oliver


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opolt  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 00:33
English to German
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Playing devil's advocate May 19, 2012

The computer is the translator.

Didn't you know that this has been the established wisdom since the inception of the technology? Granted, there are still a few bugs to be ironed out here and there ...

Oh my, what have I done! If this was a self-fulfilling prophesy, I might turn into a computer pretty soon-ish! Lemme see whether I can find the sleep button on my self now -- see ya.

Cheerio delirio,

- o.

[Edited at 2012-05-19 10:28 GMT]

[Edited at 2012-05-19 10:49 GMT]


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Alex Lago  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:33
Member (2009)
English to Spanish
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Who knows? May 19, 2012

Problem with all these forecasts is many of them are wrong, as so many of them get "spouted" out some of them are bound to be right, but there are all sorts of guesses, my favorite is "Wearable computers with projectors that project the screen on to your retina and which are voice and retina controlled" that would be really cool!!

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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:33
Member (2008)
Italian to English
No more people May 19, 2012

At some point humans will be completely replaced by computers for everything and we won't be necessary any more.

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Oliver Walter  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:33
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No need, then, for translation or coffee May 19, 2012

Tom in London wrote:
At some point humans will be completely replaced by computers for everything and we won't be necessary any more.

Which of Hermann Hauser's waves do you think that will be? The 6th, 7th, or 20,000th?

When (if?) that happens the computers that will exist instead of humans won't need to make coffee (or keep it warm) and no translation will be needed because all computers will use the same language (if they communicate with each other).

However, my question was about what will happen before then, while human translators still exist.

Oliver

[Edited at 2012-05-19 21:22 GMT]


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James McVay  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:33
Russian to English
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Touch and speech recognition May 19, 2012

Adam Pielach wrote:

I suppose it won't change in the next 5-10 years considerably. I can't imagine voice-command text editing or touching the screen as it is just impractical. Think of a, for example, 20' display with touch sensor and you will be able to tap wherever you like (as in iPads etc.) and do your day job. It is just uncomfortable to move your fingers across the display and see if you have selected the right part of the text or put the cursor in the desired place.


Actually, I use a PC with a 24 inch touch-sensitive display and Dragon NaturallySpeaking for translating and editing my translations. But I also use my keyboard and mouse quite a bit. I wouldn't dream of using a touchscreen for typing, but for controlling the computer, sometimes it's just easier to reach up and touch something or give a verbal command than it is to grab the mouse, move the cursor and click, or double-click, or triple-click. For example, I have shortcuts on my desktop to the folders I use most frequently. I find it quicker and easier to say "Open [shortcut name]" than to double-click on the shortcut — and its a whole lot easier than clicking down through several levels in Windows Explorer to get there.

The hardware and software aren't perfect, but they are big timesavers. I make a bunch more mistakes typing a translation than DNS does transcribing what I dictate. I think the technology will just keep getting better over the next few years.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:33
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Titanic May 20, 2012

James McVay wrote:

I think the technology will just keep getting better over the next few years.


That's what they were saying on the "Titanic" just a few minutes before she struck the iceberg.

Despite that technology disaster, and many others since then (Challenger? Concorde? Fukushima?) many people still believe that technology is the determinant factor in where we're all going. They actually "believe" in technology, in the same way in which some people "believe" in God. They put their faith in it.

So far as translation is concerned, technology has certainly made some things easier but the core task of the translator still requires human wit and emotion, and an ability to interpret.

Call me vain if you like, but I think I'm better than any computer. I take over at the point where the computer runs out of ideas.

[Edited at 2012-05-20 08:54 GMT]


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:33
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Then we should stop having babies May 20, 2012

Tom in London wrote:
At some point humans will be completely replaced by computers for everything and we won't be necessary any more.

In a way this is already happening. A large part of the population already works in things (all kinds of different services) that are not absolutely necessary. Probably it is not necessary that half of the adult population works today. In most developed countries, production of food and plant raw materials is done by under 5% of the population. If we add all the rest of necessary things like clothing, housing, science, medical care, education, communications, infrastructures, and all the industry required to sustain these vital things, it is very possible that we don't reach 50% of all people in working age. What do we do about the rest?

What I think will happen is that in 20 years time the new generation will strive to live a simpler life, with less energy, less consumer goods and electronics, more education and culture, and more self-production of food and other goods. It will mean more work for yourself but less work in a standardised job. This is the only way out I see to prevent frustration of mankind as a whole when machines take care of the bulk of our needs (they already do in many senses).


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:33
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Yes! May 20, 2012

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

in 20 years' time the new generation will strive to live a simpler life, with less energy, less consumer goods and electronics, more education and culture, and more self-production of food and other goods. It will mean more work for yourself but less work in a standardised job.


Yes- and I think everything will slow down.


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Oliver Walter  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:33
Member (2005)
German to English
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TOPIC STARTER
Other "Lovelace" lectures of interest May 20, 2012

Hermann Hauser's lecture is still not on the BCS website (afternoon of 20 May), but some previous lectures that are likely to interest you are listed on this page:
http://www.bcs.org/category/5931
and they are (my emphasis added):

2004 (written report)
Title: The Invention of PostScript and Acrobat
Speaker: Dr John E Warnock

2007 (video recording)
Title: The Web: Looking Back, Looking Forward
Speaker: Sir Tim Berners-Lee

2008 (video recording)
Title: What do we mean? Computational approaches to natural semantics
Speaker: Dr Ann Copestake
Dedicated to the memory of Karen Spärck Jones


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 00:33
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
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Bigger gap between consumer equipment and specialist equipment May 20, 2012

Oliver Walter wrote:
They are not even called computers anymore but smartphones and tablets.
Do you have any interesting and/or informed ideas on what a translator's computer will be like in a few years? I imagine a translator will always want a large screen (at least 15 inches/38 cm diagonal) and a keyboard. I like mice (mouses?) but I suppose touch-sensitive screens might replace them.


Computers for consumers are changing to adapt to the needs of consumers. That is why we get tablets and smart phones these days. Soon, desktop computers and even laptops will not be something that is found in every home that has a "computer". Consumers (i.e. users of computers who don't have specialised needs) need computers for consuming information and for communication.

However, someone has to create that information, and that someone is us (and graphic designers, and editors, and authors, and programmers, etc). We will not be using tablets and smart phones instead of laptops and desktop computers in the future (except in our role as consumers), because we need specialised equipment to produce what we produce. Doing translation work on a tablet or smart phone is impractical... although I do think we will see a move towards greater mobility and connectivity, even for content producers such as ourselves.

I'm not sure if touch screen technology will replace mouse and keyboard, purely for ergonomical reasons. A screen has to be far from the face (e.g. 30-50 cm) but an input device has to be within reach. If the screen itself is the main imput device, it will lead to greater strain on the body (constantly bending forward, letting "go" of the keyboard and then having to find the home row again, etc). Touch screens work for tablets because tablets are small and are designed to be held in one's hands. Mice and keyboards work well because they are at a comfortable distance from the user.

The mouse as an input device is now about 20-25 years old. Keyboards are a little older, but it is interesting that the current keyboard layout has remained unchanged for 10-15 years (or more). Even the desktop (work screen) hasn't changed much since 1997 (it will change with Windows 8, but unless I'm mistaken Windows 8 will basically be a tablet/smart phone operating system that will also be able to run on desktop computers).


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