The day before I've accidentally stumbled upon an old textbook on pattern analysis written in Russian (the second edition of a book originally published in 1977, which is more-or-less the time of the classics). A brief review of its contents was enormously enlightening.
It was both fun and sad to see how smallishly incremental the progress in pattern analysis has been for the last 30 years. If I wasn't told that the book was first published in 1977, I wouldn't be able to tell it from any contemporary textbook. I'm not complaining that the general approaches and techniques haven't changed much, these shouldn't have. What disturbs me is that the vision of the future 30 years ago was not significantly different from what we have today.
Pattern recognition systems nowadays are getting more and more widespread and it is difficult to name a scientific field or an area of industry where these are not used or won't be used in the nearest future...
Further on the text briefly describes the application areas for pattern analysis that range from medicine to agriculture to "intellectual fifth-generation computing machines" and robots that were supposed to be here somewhere around nineties already. And although machines did get somewhat more intelligent, we have clearly failed our past expectations. Our current vision of the future is not significantly different from the one we had 30 years ago. It has probably become somewhat more modest, in fact.
Interesing, is this situation specific to pattern analysis or is it like that in most areas of computer science?