WIRED magazine has finally noticed that the long term trend for technology is cheap, simple and ubiquitous.

Back in the 1990s everyone was excited about “cyberspace”. We were going to build a whole new world in virtual reality, with virtual banks, virtual shopping malls, and virtual libraries. We would drive around in virtual cars and be represented by 3D avatars that looked just like us. Even the web would be replaced with cyberspace — remember VRML?

I always thought that was a stupid idea. We already have a world that’s far higher resolution and more interactive than can possibly be experienced via a screen, or even via special goggles and exotic input devices. Rather than have massively powerful computers try to simulate a virtual world, what made more sense was for lots of small and cheap computers to become ubiquitous in the real world we already have.

Rather than a virtual library, I want a real library where the books all have RFID, and an augmented reality application can just guide me to the book I want. Rather than a virtual mall, let me search the real mall from my phone.

There’s certainly a place for virtual worlds and cutting-edge hardware; broadly speaking, that place is the video game industry, at least as far as the average person is concerned.

Ask a photographer what the best camera is, and he’ll probably tell you: it’s the camera you actually have with you. A cheap camera in your pocket is better than a $3000 SLR at home. Similarly, you’ll get more done at the coffee shop with the $300 laptop that you carry in your shoulder bag than the sleek 17″ behemoth you leave at home.