When I was a little kid, we had these eight bit home computers. To start anything you needed to type a BASIC command. The machine had a BASIC interpreter in it and came with a BASIC manual. If you had the smallest inclination towards programming, it was shockingly easy to go ahead and hack a program together. And then the BASIC interpreters have disappeared from the machines. The proliferation of GUIs made coding a little bit harder but still you could add something like Delphi to your Windows PC and hack ahead happily.
Now, I would like to point out two devices which are made available to the generic public in 2010: the Apple iPad brings computing to people who have never used (or certainly disliked) computers before. This is the first mainstream computer that lacks a physical keyboard (Windows Tablet PC devices need not apply, they are kludgy niche devices, not mainstream) and so the very thought of hacking together something on them will not even appear. As it's mostly a consumer device the thought of scripting / automating is unlikely to appear either. You need to pay money to Apple and have another "real" computer to become an iPad developer and you need to get your program approved. Kids trying "hello world" are certainly not welcome.
The other end is the AmigaOne X1000. It's an extreme niche computer with a co-processor hackable on levels unseen before. It really is an "X", an unknown of what cool stuff you can do with it. It also costs more than the most expensive iPads and runs an obscure (cool, but still) operating system. Mark my words my developer colleague: this is your future PC. Cool, obscure and expensive.
There is more than hackability at stake here. This is your very freedom. I was telling people in May (at DrupalCon San Francisco) that I see the iPad as a very important milestone on a road which leads to computers that can only run sanctioned apps. Throughout history, the "average Joe" had no saying in the world and the highly hackable personal computer have changed this. The mindset is what's important. The very thought that anyone alone can make a change was unconceivable before. This short lived era is what's coming to an end. I suspected it will take decades. A mere month later, however, rumours are abound that Windows 8 will feature an app store. This should be downright frightening especially coupled with the fact that Windows 7 came with a Windows XP virtual machine. Microsoft can end Windows compatibility any day, relegate old Windows programs to the virtual machine and make it so that any new app needs to be sanctioned. Apple, obviously can easily follow or even do it before Microsoft.
I am not alone saying this. I only learned after DCSF that at SXSF Douglas Rushkoff had a session called Program or be Programmed.
Where does this leave us programmers? Are we going to be the ruling elite who controls the world? Do not be so naive. We will be hated by the powers that be because we still have that spark and because they rely on us to program the masses. The unwashed masses are going to look at us with suspicion because we think so differently. Hated by everyone, weeping for the lost freedom, that's our future.