Technology futures and a grade from 1977…
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The intersection of technology and dreams. When I was younger I dreamed of being able to carry a bag that had everything I needed to do my job. Not things that I carry today, rather what as a 16 year old I envisioned the world would require of an older than then me and a younger than me now.

A portable phone was one of them. Although in fairness as I think back to the essay I wrote in 1977 I envisioned that phone to be much larger. (The essay got a C – too fanciful was the teachers response. The essay was supposed to be an extrapolation of what was available then and I had gone too far). I wonder if you can get retroactive grade increases or if now my grade would stay low and in the end my markdown would be because it wasn’t close enough to reality.

My circular slide rule was included in that briefcase as a reference tool. Now I would just like my slide rule back as a memory tool. To remember the man that gave it to me.

In my bag was a portable phone, circular slide rule, paper and pen and a really cool programmable calculator and a really small portable computer.

The essay was written in the time of PDP-11s (our school had just gotten one for 1900 students). It was however at the time too fanciful.

It really was.

Before the PC Jr. in 1980 computers were large. The beloved character of Charlie Chaplin was used to introduce the computer from IBM. I wonder if they did that intentionally. Charlie Chaplin was a comic character but other than a couple of movies was never threatening just funny. The computer itself was fairly large. The birth of the notebook began in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.

In fact my briefcase could have easily been complete as of 1992. By 1998 the things I envisioned in the briefcase were passé. By 2005 most of what I envisioned as critical processing was in the palm of my hand and the laptop wasn’t as essential.

Looking back the 37 years to that essay I think in fairness I should have gotten a B. I did see further into the further than most of my classmates did. I didn’t see the clear horizon of technology tomorrows but I did see pretty far.

That brings me back to my prognostications of the past few months. The delineation of stayable, wearable and ultimately portable computing into distinct structured systems. Where your portable device becomes the heart of the system and the stayable and wearable components becoming your inputs.

In the end the system architecture of stayable, wearable and portable technology will continue to evolve. Based on that reality I suspect that C was probably right.


Scott Andersen

IASA Fellow.