Talk to an average car enthusiast and he'll probably tell you manual shifting is the way to go.  The do-it-yourself gearbox has a long history in automotive design and motorsports.  Thanks to simple, yet robust design, it has stood the test of time.  There's a good chance you'll still find brand new showroom cars without the automatic option at most dealerships.  The manual transmission was, theoretically, made obsolete decades ago when automatics were introduced to production motor vehicles, as an upgrade.  They are smoother and easier to drive, and seem to have become more "standard" than standard transmissions.  Why then, would anyone still want to drive a stick, and how long will it be till they are completely absent from new cars?  Although the manual-shift gearbox is old in terms of technology, its benefits are still being proven in modern cars.  A clutch is more efficient at transferring power from the engine to the wheels, when compared to the torque converter.  The driver can fine tune shift points, thereby tweaking his performance and fuel economy.  It's simplicity makes it cheaper to produce and potentially more reliable in the long run.  There are plenty of practical reasons to use it.

Possibly the most convincing argument for driving a stick is that it's just plain fun.  It takes a special touch to handle a standard transmission just right.  The "practice makes perfect" saying fits quite well here.  There is a certain amount of pleasure that comes from taming the clutch, thrashing the shifter, and getting every ounce of your engine's power to the wheels.  It's an ego booster.  A sense of pride (and I would argue, arrogance) results from the mastery of manual gear changing.  At times I almost feel ashamed to admit to stick drivers that I let my car do the shifting for me.  Believe me, I love driving a stick just as much as the next guy but... well... I have my reasons.

So, is the enthusiast's love for the standard transmission enough to keep it alive in years to come?  Actually, I think it's got even more than that going for it.  The benefits of the manual transmission and the convenience of the automatic have already been living together in harmony for several years.  For example, my Jetta has a clutch (well two actually), but I never use it.  I can simply extend my right foot and the car will cruise through all six gears on its way up to the legally posted speed limit :) or I can tap the shifter back and forth to choose my own whenever I want.  Either way, it's all done electronically, and it's smooth as butter thanks to the DSG (Direct-Shift Gearbox).  It's convenient when I want it to be, and fun when I want it to be.  Better yet, it's compatible with paddle shifters (on my list of upgrades).  Ok, ok, I know what you're thinking.  A DSG is still not a full-blown manual.  You're right.  So I'll get on with my prediction.

I believe that the dual clutch, self-shifting manual transmissions will become quite common.  Torque converter-equipped variations will survive, and so will the much loved fully manual gearbox.  If manual transmissions were going to die, I can't imagine why it didn't happen years ago.  Think about the people designing cars.  From the body styling to the interior, to the engine, every last part is meticulously developed to be just right.  These people love cars too.  They want to make them comfortable, fast, and fun!  Sure, the world needs safe, practical, economical, and green cars too.  As long as there is a passion for good old fashioned driving, manual transmissions will live on.  Car companies must be in touch with their customers in order to be successful.  If the people want a six-speed, they will get a six-speed!