Wired Magazine 00-09-1995
In response to a invitation to tell them what I want from new technology...
Although I don't always understand everything I read in Wired I enjoy immensely
its 'future present' attitude.
However, there's always the danger in such fast developing technologies as IT, or genetic research for that matter, that 'we' the punters are too busy being amazed by, and keeping up with, 'them' the techies and developers. How often, one wonders, do 'they' ever stop to ask themselves what it is that 'we' might want next, or in a year or two?
I'm a foreign correspondent whose entire working life, at home or abroad, is dependent upon a Mac laptop and access to a clean phone line. I know what I need and what I need now is what most people will expect and take for granted from their terminals eventually.
I want to be able to receive and display 'wireless' TV on my screen and to be able to edit/cut/paste it. I want to be able to do the same with radio, working in the background. I want to use my laptop microphone and speakers as a telephone handset and sound recorder in addition to its current ability to send and receive data, email and faxes. I want access to low-orbiting satellites now so that my laptop, interfaced with a GSM phone, relieves me of the need to drive fifty miles to find a working phone. I need voice messages, data and email, stored by the GSM phonenet provider, to be instantaneously downloadable to my laptop. I want to be able to do the same in reverse.
Much of the above exists, very patchily, already. Much depends upon the development of satellites and digital broadcasting. But nowhere have I seen or heard of anyone giving serious thought to how all this can be integrated simply and successfully in a way that will suit 'us'.
The internet is fun and an adventure but no longer a novelty for me. In very practical terms it's about the only way in which I and a besieged city like Sarajevo can disseminate information or have access to knowledge now that its libraries, universities and institutions are largely defunct. But without phone lines or mains electricity the internet doesn't exist.
For Sarajevo one could substitute any of us in our cars or on a sunny day in our gardens, far from phone and power sockets: wanting to watch and archive a TV news item or a radio play; make phone calls on our laptops; pick up, store and retrieve messages and information; have access to a library.
All of this presumably involves improvements in battery technology, data compression, satellites, common operating platforms and systems, integrated software, international telecommunications agreements, international broadcasting standardisation and a thousand other factors. But it has to come about quite soon and it would be good to know that someone is thinking about how it can be coordinated smoothly with 'us' in mind.
If not we'll have dozens of system providers and hardware and software manufacturers creating unintegrated chaos (and then patches and emulators to cover the confusion?) like non-standard car components, non-standard plugs, non-standard national legislations, non-standard TV systems and non-standard currencies, power supplies, blood-groupings, weights & measures, alphabets, etc..
Is there anyone out there with the vision and common sense to ask 'us' what we want first and then make sure that all of mankind's skills are harnessed to a common, practical end a useful, well-designed terminal box which contains all the features and all the software that links all of us to all the information relays everywhere in the world?
© (1995) Christopher Long. Copyright, Syndication & All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
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