The Laboratory Lag

While marking the death of computer mouse inventor Douglas Engelbart, Timothy B. Lee notes that it took around three decades after its invention to be widely adopted. And he claims that “thirty years is actually a typical amount of time for a breakthrough computing invention to go from the first laboratory prototype to commercial ubiquity”:

This 30-year rule of thumb can help to form an educated guess about when future innovations will reach the mass market. For example, the first car capable of driving itself long distances was created in 2005, and the technology has been maturing in academica and corporate labs over the last eight years. If self-driving technology follows the same trajectory as previous computing innovations, commercial self-driving cars will be introduced sometime in the 2020s, and the technology will become widely adopted in the 2030s.

Drum adds that “a lot of these inventions depend on computing power” and that we’re “still a decade or so away” from computers being cheap and powerful enough to make self-driving cars feasible on a grand scale.