Smart Machines Rising

SWITZERLAND-DAVOS-ECONOMY-POLITICS-MEET-WEFA number of this week’s milestones in the history of technology highlight the role of mechanical devices in automating work, augmenting human activities, and allowing many people to participate in previously highly-specialized endeavors—a process technology vendors like to call “democratization” (as in “democratization of artificial intelligence”).

On January 3, 1983, Time magazine put the PC on its cover as “machine of the year.” Time publisher John A. Meyers wrote: “Several human candidates might have represented 1982, but none symbolized the past year more richly, or will be viewed by history as more significant, than a machine: the computer.” In the cover article, Roger Rosenblatt wrote:

Inventions arise when they’re needed. This here screen and keyboard might have come along any old decade, but it happened to pop up when it did, right now, at this point in time, like the politicians call it, because we were getting hungry to be ourselves again. That’s what I think, buddy. “The most idealist nations invent most machines.” D.H. Lawrence said that. Great American, D.H.

O pioneer. Folks over in Europe have spent an awful lot of time, more than 200 years if you’re counting, getting up on their high Lipizzaners and calling us a nation of gears and wheels. But we know better. What do you say? Are you ready to join your fellow countrymen (4 million Americans can’t be wrong) and take home some bytes of free time, time to sit back after all the word processing and inventorying and dream the dear old dream? Stand with me here. The sun rises in the West. Play it, Mr. Dvorak. There’s a New World coming again, looming on the desktop. Oh, say, can you see it? Major credit cards accepted.

The Time magazine cover appeared just a few years after the appearance if the first PCs and the software written for the, devices that automated previous work and helped put it in the hands of non-specialists. For example, turning some accounting work—specifically, management accounting, the ongoing internal measurement of a company’s performance—into work that could be performed by employees without an accounting degree. This “democratization” of accounting not only automated previous work but greatly augmented management work, giving business executives new data about their companies and new ways to measure and predict future performance.

On January 2, 1979, Software Arts was incorporated by co-founders Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston for the purpose of developing VisiCalc, the world’s first spreadsheet program, which will be published by a separate company, Personal Software Inc. (later named VisiCorp). VisiCalc will come to be widely regarded as the first “killer app” that turned the PC into a serious business tool. Dan Bricklin:

The idea for the electronic spreadsheet came to me while I was a student at the Harvard Business School, working on my MBA degree, in the spring of 1978. Sitting in Aldrich Hall, room 108, I would daydream. “Imagine if my calculator had a ball in its back, like a mouse…” (I had seen a mouse previously, I think in a demonstration at a conference by Doug Engelbart, and maybe the Alto). And “…imagine if I had a heads-up display, like in a fighter plane, where I could see the virtual image hanging in the air in front of me. I could just move my mouse/keyboard calculator around on the table, punch in a few numbers, circle them to get a sum, do some calculations, and answer ‘10% will be fine!'” (10% was always the answer in those days when we couldn’t do very complicated calculations…)

The summer of 1978, between first and second year of the MBA program, while riding a bike along a path on Martha’s Vineyard, I decided that I wanted to pursue this idea and create a real product to sell after I graduated.

Long before the invention of the PC and its work-enhancing programs, an ingenious mechanical device was applied to the work of painters and illustrators, people with unique and rare skills for capturing and preserving reality.

On January 7, 1839, the Daguerreotype photography process was presented to the French Academy of Sciences by Francois Arago, a physicist and politician. Arago told the Academy that it was “…indispensable that the government should compensate M. Daguerre, and that France should then nobly give to the whole world this discovery which could contribute so much to the progress of art and science.”

On March 5, 1839, another inventor, looking (in the United States, England, and France) for government sponsorship of his invention of the telegraph, met with Daguerre. A highly impressed Samuel F. B. Morse wrote to his brother: “It is one of the most beautiful discoveries of the age… No painting or engraving ever approached it.”

In late September 1839, as Jeff Rosenheim tells us in Art and the Empire Cityshortly after the French government (on August 19) publicly released the details of the Daguerreotype process, “…a boat arrived [in New York] with a published text with step-by-step instructions for creating the plates and making the exposures. Morse and others in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia immediately set about to build their cameras, find usable lenses, and experiment with the new invention.”

New Yorkers were ready for the Daguerreotype, already alerted to the “new discovery” by articles in the local press, such as the one in The Corsair on April 13, 1839, titled “The Pencil of Nature”: “Wonderful wonder of wonders!! … Steel engravers, copper engravers, and etchers, drink up your aquafortis, and die! There is an end to your black art… All nature shall paint herself — fields, rivers, trees, houses, plains, mountains, cities, shall all paint themselves at a bidding, and at a few moment’s notice.”

Another memorable phrase capturing the wonders of photography came from the pen (or pencil) of Oliver Wendell Holmes, who wrote in “The Stereoscope and the Stereograph” (The Atlantic Monthly, June 1859):

The Daguerreotype… has fixed the most fleeting of our illusions, that which the apostle and the philosopher and the poet have alike used as the type of instability and unreality. The photograph has completed the triumph, by making a sheet of paper reflect images like a mirror and hold them as a picture… [it is the] invention of the mirror with a memory…

The time will come when a man who wishes to see any object, natural or artificial, will go to the Imperial, National, or City Stereographic Library and call for its skin or form, as he would for a book at any common library… we must have special stereographic collections, just as we have professional and other special libraries. And as a means of facilitating the formation of public and private stereographic collections, there must be arranged a comprehensive system of exchanges, so that there may grow up something like a universal currency of these bank-notes, or promises to pay in solid substance, which the sun has engraved for the great Bank of Nature.

Let our readers fill out a blank check on the future as they like,—we give our indorsement to their imaginations beforehand. We are looking into stereoscopes as pretty toys, and wondering over the photograph as a charming novelty; but before another generation has passed away, it will be recognized that a new epoch in the history of human progress dates from the time when He who

never but in uncreated light
Dwelt from eternity—

took a pencil of fire from the hand of the “angel standing in the sun,” and placed it in the hands of a mortal.

In Civilization (March/April 1996), William Howarth painted for us the larger picture of the new industry in America: “Daguerreotypes introduced to Americans a new realism, a style built on close observation and exact detail, so factual it no longer seemed an illusion. … Hawthorne’s one attempt at literary realism, The House of the Seven Gables (1851), features a daguerreotypist who uses his new art to dispel old shadows: ‘I make pictures out of sunshine,’ he claims, and they reveal ‘the secret character with a truth that no painter would ever venture upon.’… By 1853 the American photo industry employed 17,000 workers, who took over 3 million pictures a year.”

A hundred and fifty years after what Holmes called the moment of the “triumph of human ingenuity,” the Metropolitan Museum of Art mounted an exhibition on the early days of Daguerreotypes in France. Said Philippe de Montebello, the director of the museum at the time: “The invention of the daguerreotype—the earliest photographic process—forever altered the way we see and understand our world. No invention since Gutenberg’s movable type had so changed the transmission of knowledge and culture, and none would have so great an impact again until the informational revolution of the late twentieth century.”

In the same year of the Metropolitan’s exhibition, 2003, more digital cameras than traditional film cameras were sold for the first time in the U.S. The “informational revolution” has replaced analog with digital, but it did not alter the idea of photography as invented by Nicéphore Niépce in 1822, and captured so well by the inimitable Ambrose Bierce in his definition of “photograph” (The Devil’s Dictionary, 1911): “A picture painted by the sun without instruction in art.”

And what’s today’s Machine of the Year? 2017 was the year the robots really, truly arrived, says Matt Simon in Wired:

They escaped the factory floor and started conquering big cities to deliver Mediterranean food. Self-driving cars swarmed the streets. And even bipedal robots—finally capable of not immediately falling on their faces—strolled out of the lab and into the real world. The machines are here, and it’s an exhilarating time indeed. Like, now Atlas the humanoid robot can do backflips. Backflips.

Originally published on Forbes.com

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The Analog-to-Digital Journey of Film

Cinématographe_Lumière.jpgTwo of this week’s milestones in the history of technology reflect the analog-to-digital transformation of film making and distribution.

On December 28, 1895, the first public screening of films at which admission was charged was held by the Lumière brothers at the Salon Indien du Grand Café in Paris. It featured ten short films, including their first film, Sortie des Usines Lumière à Lyon (Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory). Each film was 17 meters long, which, when hand cranked through a projector, ran approximately 50 seconds.

British photographer Eadweard Muybridge invented the first movie projector, the Zoopraxiscope, in 1879. On October 17, 1888, Thomas Edison filed a patent for the first movie projector, the “Optical Phonograph,” which projected images just 1/32-inch across. In his patent application, he wrote: “I am experimenting upon an instrument which does for the Eye what the phonograph does for the Ear.”

On May 9, 1893, Edison presented the Kinetoscope, the first film-viewing device, at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences. The first film publicly shown on the system was Blacksmith Scene, the earliest known example of actors performing a role in a film.

By 1900, the Lumière brothers had produced 1,299 short movies. For the World Fair that year, they developed their new Lumière Wide format which, at 75mm wide, has held the record for over 100 years as the widest film format.

35mm film was the standard for making movies and distributing them for about a century. On June 18, 1999, Texas Instruments’ DLP Cinema projector technology was publicly demonstrated on two screens in Los Angeles and New York for the release of Lucasfilm’s Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. By December 2000, there were 15 digital cinema screens in the United States and Canada, 11 in Western Europe, 4 in Asia, and 1 in South America. By the end of 2016, almost all of the world’s cinema screen were digital.

The digital transformation of movie theaters also attracted new types of content. On December 30, 2006, a live HD broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera was transmitted for the first time to 100 movie theaters across North America plus others in Britain, Japan and one in Norway. Today, Live in HD transmissions are seen on more than 2,000 screens in 70 countries around the world.

The live broadcasts from the Metropolitan have been followed by similar ones from the Royal Opera House, Sydney Opera House, English National Opera and other opera, ballet and theater companies such as NT Live, Branagh Live, Royal Shakespeare Company, Shakespeare’s Globe, the Royal Ballet, Mariinsky Ballet, the Bolshoi Ballet and the Berlin Philharmoniker.

The range of offerings has expanded to include variety of music concerts, live sport events, documentaries and lectures, faith broadcasts, stand-up comedy, museum and gallery exhibitions, and TV specials such as the record-breaking Doctor Who fiftieth anniversary special The Day of The Doctor.

Opera, theater, ballet, sport, exhibitions, TV specials and documentaries are now established forms of what became to be known as “Event Cinema.” It is estimated that worldwide revenues of the Event Cinema industry will reach $1 billion by 2019.

LiveinHD

Originally published on Forbes.com

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The Knowledge Navigator

Two of this week’s milestones in the history of technology—the development of the first transistor at Bell Labs and the development of the Alto PC at Xerox PARC—connect to this year’s 30th anniversary of the Knowledge Navigator, a concept video about the future of computing used as a motivational tool by John Sculley, Apple’s CEO at the time.

“I wanted to inspire people, convince them that we were not at the end of creativity in computing, only at the very beginning of the journey,” Sculley told me earlier this year. Given Moore’s Law, Sculley’s said they were confident in 1987 that in the future they will be able to do multimedia, build communications into computers, perform simulations, and develop computers that will act as an intelligent assistant. The question was “how to present it to people so they will believe it will happen,” and the answer was a “concept video.”

The fundamental innovation that enabled what became to be known as “Moore’s Law” was demonstrated seventy years ago this week, on December 23, 1947. The plaque commemorating the invention of the first transistor at Bell Telephone Laboratories reads: “At this site, in Building 1, Room 1E455, from 17 November to 23 December 1947, Walter H. Brattain and John A. Bardeen—under the direction of William B. Shockley—discovered the transistor effect, and developed and demonstrated a point-contact germanium transistor. This led directly to developments in solid-state devices that revolutionized the electronics industry and changed the way people around the world lived, learned, worked, and played.”

In the years to follow, numerous inventions have been based on the ingenuity of engineers who figured out how to cram more and more transistors into an integrated circuit, a process that has made possible the continuing miniaturization of computing devices while at the same time providing them with more power to perform more tasks.

One such invention taking advantage of the ongoing process of better-faster-smaller was the Alto personal computer. On December 19, 1974, Butler Lampson at Xerox PARC sent a memo to his management asking for funding for the development of a number of Alto personal computers. He wrote: “If our theories about the utility of cheap, powerful personal computers are correct, we should be able to demonstrate them convincingly on Alto. If they are wrong, we can find out why.”

The Alto, inspired by Doug Engelbart’s “Mother of All Demos”—or the mother of all concepts videos/demonstrations about the future of computing—in turn inspired Steve Jobs when he first saw the Alto at Xerox PARC in December 1979. Jobs was specifically taken by the Alto’s graphical user interface (GUI) which was later used in Apple’s Lisa and Macintosh personal computers. “It was like a veil being lifted from my eyes,” Jobs told Walter Isaacson, “I could see what the future of computing was destined to be.”

In 1986, Jobs was no longer with Apple and was busy exploring the future of computing with the NeXT Computer. Apple was “on the upswing,” according to Sculley. But Apple Fellow Alan Kay told him “next time we won’t have Xeorx.” By that Kay probably meant that they were missing Steve Jobs’ talent for recognizing emerging technologies and their potential to become successful products and his talent for creating a compelling and motivating vision based on his insights. “I believed it was important to show people that Apple can still be creative after Steve left,” says Sculley.

A year of surveying emerging technologies and ideas by visiting universities and research laboratories and engaging in discussions with Apple engineers culminated in the Knowledge Navigator video, in which “we tried to map out what might seem obvious to everybody in twenty years,” says Sculley. He describes it as a vision for a world of interactive multimedia communications where computation became just a commodity enabler and knowledge applications would be accessed by smart agents working over networks connected to massive amounts of digitized information.

The Knowledge Navigator helped attract and retain talent, according to Sculley, and it inspired a number of projects and products—Quicktime, a desktop multimedia presentation software for the Macintosh; Hypercard, the first truly interactive scripting software that could be used without knowledge of programming; and the Newton, the first hand-held computing device or Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) as the product category was called at the time. The Newton itself was not successful, but it housed the ARM processor (the type that powers smartphones today) which Apple co-developed. The company later sold its ARM license for $800 million.

Thirty years later, talking “knowledge navigators” or intelligent assistants—Amazon’s Alexa, Google Now, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana—are finally a reality, but they are still far from displaying the versatility and understanding (i.e., intelligence) of the visionary Knowledge Navigator.

But Sculley is still the enthusiastic marketer he has been all his working life (“in marketing, perception always leads reality”), predicting that by 2025 “this kind of technology will be useful and indispensable, and will have high impact on how work is done” and the re-invention of healthcare and education.

Following his convictions about the future, Sculley has invested in or has been involved with applying big data analytics and artificial intelligence to re-inventing work and healthcare, with startups such as Zeta Global, RxAdvance, and People Ticker. “We no longer live in linear time,” says Sculley.

It’s also possible that we have never lived in linear time, something which makes predictions, especially about the future, difficult. As Peter Denning wrote in the Communications of the ACM (September 2012): “Unpredictability arises not from insufficient information about a system’s operating laws, from inadequate processing power, or from limited storage. It arises because the system’s outcomes depend on unpredictable events and human declarations [society’s support for the adoption of specific technologies]. Do not be fooled into thinking that wise experts or powerful machines can overcome such odds.” Or as Bob Metcalfe wrote in Internet Collapses: “it’s relatively easy to predict the future. It’s harder to make precise predictions. And it’s hardest to get the timing right.”

Still, no matter how many predictions go wrong or maybe because so many predictions go wrong, we continue to seek—and create—guideposts, potential alternatives, and inspiring visions.

In Beyond Calculation: The Next Fifty Year of Computing, a collection of essays which Denning and Metcalfe edited in 1997, they wrote that they hoped their product will be not about predictions, but about developing “possibilities, raise issues, and enumerate some of the choices we will face about how information technology will affect us in the future.”

Originally published on Forbes.com

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Computer Networking: The Technology Trend Driving the Success of Apple, Microsoft and Google

ethernet_MetcalfeBoggs

Bob Metcalfe (left) and Dave Boggs, inventors of Ethernet

This week’s milestones in the history of technology reveal the most important—and quite neglected—technology trend contributing to the success of Apple, Google, and Microsoft, ultimately making them today’s three most valuable US companies.

Apple and Microsoft are considered the premier—and long-lasting—examples of what has become to be known as the “PC era,” the former focusing on a self-contained (and beautifully designed) system of hardware and software, the latter on software which became the de-facto standard for PCs.

On December 17, 1974, the January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics hit the newsstands. Its cover featured the Altair 8800, the “World’s First Minicomputer Kit to Rival Commercial Models.” In fact, it was the first commercially successful microcomputer (i.e., PC) kit and the start of what became to be known as the “personal computing revolution.”

Les Solomon, a Popular Electronics editor, agreed to feature the kit on the cover of the always-popular January issue when Ed Roberts, co-founder of Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS), suggested to him he would build a professional-looking, complete kit, based on Intel’s 8080 chip.  Stan Veit: “Roberts was gambling that with the computer on the cover of Popular Electronics, enough of the 450,000 readers would pay $397 to build a computer, even if they didn’t have the slightest idea of how to use it.”

MITS needed to sell 200 kits to breakeven but within a few months it sold about 2,000 just through Popular Electronics. Veit: “That is more computers of one type than had ever been sold before in the history of the industry.”

Visiting his high-school friend Bill Gates, then a student at Harvard University, Paul Allen, then a programmer with Honeywell, saw the January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics at the Out of Town News newsstand at Harvard Square. Grasping the opportunity opened up by personal computers, and eager not to let others get to it first, the two developed a version of the BASIC programming language for the Altair in just a few weeks. In April 1975, they moved to MITS’ headquarters in Albuquerque, New Mexico, signing their contract with MITS “Paul Allen and Bill Gates doing business as Micro-Soft.”

PC kits like the Altair 8800 also gave rise to local gatherings of electronics hobbyists such as Silicon Valley’s Homebrew Computer Club which first met on March 5, 1975. Steve Wozniak presented to members of the club his prototype for a fully assembled PC which in July 1976 went on sale as the Apple I. On December 12, 1980, Apple Computer went public in the largest IPO since Ford Motor Company went public in 1956. Originally priced to sell at $14 a share, the stock opened at $22 and all 4.6 million shares were sold almost immediately. The stock rose almost 32% that day to close at $29, giving the company a valuation of $1.78 billion. In August 2012, Apple became the most valuable company in history in terms of market capitalization, at $620 billion.

The PCs on which both Apple and Microsoft built their early fortunes were not “revolutionary” as they were a mainframe-on-a-desk, resembling in their conception and architecture the much larger machines that have dominated the computer industry for the previous three decades. They did, however, give rise to new desktop applications (e.g., spreadsheets) which contributed greatly to increased personal productivity. But within the confines of a stand-alone PC, their impact was limited.

The real potential of the PC to improve work processes and make a profound impact on productivity was realized only in the mid-1990s with the commercial success of Local Area Networks (LANs) or the linking of PCs in one building-wide or campus-wide network. That breakthrough invention saw the light of day in the early 1970s at Xerox Parc. Later, on December 13, 1977, Bob Metcalfe, David Boggs, Charles Thacker, and Butler Lampson received a patent for the Ethernet, titled “Multipoint Data Communication System with Collision Detection.”

Today, Ethernet is the dominant networking technology, linking computers not just locally but also over long distances, in a Wide-Area Network (WAN). The best-known WAN today is the Internet, a network of networks linking billions of devices all around the world. Limited mostly to academic research in its first twenty-five years, the Internet’s real potential was realized by the 1989 invention of the World-Wide Web, software running over the Internet that facilitated a higher level of linking between numerous content elements (documents, photos, videos).

On December 14, 1994, the Advisory Committee of the World-Wide Web Consortium (W3C) met for the first time at MIT. The Web’s inventor, Tim Berners-Lee, in Weaving the Web: “The meeting was very friendly and quite small with only about twenty-five people. Competitors in the marketplace, the representatives came together with concerns over the potential fragmentation of HTML…if there was any centralized point of control, it would rapidly become a bottleneck that would restrict the Web’s growth and the Web would never scale up. Its being ‘out of control’ was very important.”

The out of control nature of the Web allowed for the emergence of new companies seeking to benefit from its success in driving further proliferation of computing. The Web has moved the computer from mostly an enterprise productivity-improvement tool to becoming the foundation for myriad of innovations impacting consumers and their daily lives. Google (now Alphabet) was one of these innovations, becoming the best guide to the ever-increasing volumes of linked information on the Web.

Today, Apple is the most valuable US company at $870 billion, followed by Alphabet at $724 billion and Microsoft at $649 billion.

Originally published on Forbes.com

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The Origins of the Open Internet and Net Neutrality

arpanet_map71

ARPAnet in 1971 (Source: Larry Roberts’ website)

Two of this week’s milestones in the history of technology highlight the foundations laid 50 years ago that are at the core of today’s debates over net neutrality and the open Internet.

On December 6, 1967, the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) at the United States Department of Defense issued a four-month contract to Stanford Research Institute (SRI) for the purpose of studying the “design and specification of a computer network.” SRI was expected to report on the effects of selected network tasks on Interface Message Processors (today’s routers) and “the communication facilities serving highly responsive networks.”

The practical motivation for the establishment of what became known later as the Internet was the need open up and connect isolated and proprietary communication networks. When Robert Taylor became in February 1966 the director of the Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO) at ARPA he found out that each scientific research project his agency was sponsoring required its own specialized terminal and unique set of user commands. Most important, while computer networks benefited the scientists collaborating on each project, creating project-specific communities, there was no way to extend the collaboration across scientific communities. Taylor proposed to his boss the ARPAnet, a network that will connect the different projects that ARPA was sponsoring.

What Taylor and his team envisioned was an open and decentralized network as opposed to a closed network that is managed from one central location. In early 1967, at a meeting of ARPA’s principal investigators at Ann Arbor, Michigan, Larry Roberts, the ARPA network program manager, proposed his idea for a distributed ARPAnet as opposed to a centralized network managed by a single computer.

Roberts’ proposal that all host computers would connect to one another directly, doing double duty as both research computers and networking routers, was not endorsed by the principal investigators who were reluctant to dedicate valuable computing resources to network administration. After the meeting broke, Wesley Clark, a computer scientist at Washington University in St. Louis, suggested to Roberts that the network be managed by identical small computers, each attached to a host computer. Accepting the idea, Roberts named the small computers dedicated to network administration ‘Interface Message Processors’ (IMPs), which later evolved into today’s routers.

In October 1967, at the first ACM Symposium on Operating Systems Principles, Roberts presented “Multiple computer networks and intercomputer communication,” in which he describes the architecture of the “ARPA net” and argues that giving scientists the ability to explore data and programs residing in remote locations will reduce duplication of effort and result in enormous savings: “A network will foster the ‘community’ use of computers. Cooperative programming will be stimulated, and in particular fields or disciplines it will be possible to achieve ‘critical mass’ of talent by allowing geographically separated people to work effectively in interaction with a system.”

In August of 1968, ARPA sent out a RFQ to 140 companies, and in December 1968, awarded the contract for building the first 4 IMPs to Bolt, Beranek and Newman (BBN).These will become the first nodes of the network we know today as the Internet.

The same month the contract was awarded, on December 9, 1968, SRI’s Doug Engelbart demonstrated the oNLine System (NLS) to about one thousand attendees at the Fall Joint Computer Conference held by the American Federation of Information Processing. With this demonstration, Engelbart took the decentralized and open vision of the global network a step further, showing what could be done with its interactive, real-time communications.

The demonstration introduced the first computer mouse, hypertext linking, multiple windows with flexible view control, real-time on-screen text editing, and shared-screen teleconferencing. Engelbart and his colleague Bill English, the engineer who designed the first mouse, conducted a real-time demonstration in San Francisco with co-workers connected from his Augmentation Research Center (ARC) at SRI’s headquarters in Menlo Park, CA. The inventions demonstrated were developed to support Engelbart’s vision of solving humanity’s most important problems by harnessing computers as tools for collaboration and the augmentation of our collective intelligence.

The presentation later became known as “the mother of all demos,” first called so by Steven Levy in his 1994 book, Insanely Great: The Life and Times of Macintosh, the Computer That Changed Everything.

Engelbart’s Augmentation Research Center was sponsored by Robert Taylor, first at NASA and later at ARPA. In an interview with John Markoff in 1999, Taylor described the prevailing vision in 1960s of the Internet as regulated public utility:

The model that some people were pushing in those days for how this was going to spread was that there were going to be gigantic computer utilities. This was the power utility model. I never bought that. By the late 60’s, Moore’s Law was pretty obvious. It was just a matter of time before you could afford to put a computer on everyone’s desk.

Technology and the businesses competing to take advantage of its progress, it turned out, made sure the decentralized and open nature of the Internet would be sustained without turning it into a regulated utility. That also encouraged innovation not only in terms of the underlying technologies, but also and in building additional useful layers on top of the open network. Robert Taylor told Markoff in 1999:

I was sure that from the early 1970’s, all the pieces were there at Xerox and at ARPA to put the Internet in the state by the early ’80’s that it is in today [1999]. It was all there. It was physically there. But it didn’t happen for years.

What did happen was Tim Berners-Lee, who in 1989 invented the Web, a decentralized (as opposed to what he called “the straightjacket of hierarchical documentation systems”), open software running on top of the Internet that transformed it from a collaboration tool used by scientists to a communication tool used by close to 4 billion people worldwide.

See also A Very Short History Of The Internet And The Web

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The Turing Test and the Turing Machine

turing_SchoolReport

Alan Turing’s school report where a physics teacher noted “He must remember that Cambridge will want sound knowledge rather than vague ideas.” Source: SkyNews

This week’s milestones in the history of technology include Microsoft unleashing MS-DOS and Windows, the first Turing Test and the introduction of the Turing Machine, and IBM launching a breakthrough in computer storage technology.

Read the article on Forbes.com

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History of Human-Machine Interface

History_HumanMachine-interface

Source: Infographicszone

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