Predicting the future of technology is often a shot in the dark. But every once in awhile, the complex evolution of tech gives us something that actually fulfills the starry-eyed dreams of years or decades before. And as we look back at the incredible achievements of Steve Jobs, you quickly see that, more than any other single innovator, he was responsible for so many of today's real-life consummations of past predictions.
The first real instance of a videophone debuted at the World's Fair in 1964, albeit in a pretty primitive form--the picture only refreshed once every two seconds, for example. But it remained in the public eye, with prominent appearances in movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey. In the decades since, we've never really embraced video chat to the same extent as voice or text chat, but it still evolved. Skype began allowing video chat in 2006 for desktop computers, and later expanded to mobile apps. With the explosion in popularity of smartphones, apps from Skype and others popped up, but none did it as seamlessly and simply as Apple's Facetime, which debuted in 2010. Jobs himself cited The Jetsons when making the first Facetime call to Jony Ive during the first keynote demonstration of the feature.
Voice command and speech recognition are existing, even old technologies, but the idea of a personal, artificial assistant that could understand and respond to your comments and questions has long been just out of reach--and has also been a mainstay of sci-fi, from Star Trek to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Apple's integration of Siri into the newest version of iOS is the closest we've ever been to this vision--a vision even Apple has dreamed of for decades.
In 1987, Jobs was no longer at Apple, having been ousted by the board in 1985. But the company showed off some predictions from the future, in that silly earnest way of the mid-80s, called Futureshock. This one, showing a personal assistant tablet-like device, has a remarkable similarity to Siri.
Earlier than just about anyone else, Jobs began changing the way we interact with our gadgets, pushing toward natural human interfaces with touch. Touch gestures have infiltrated every aspect of Apple's hardware, from portables to even the mouse, and the software has taken a turn to better respond to those controls. Take a look at this video, another example of that 1987 "Futureshock" concept series. Specifically, look around 3:25:
Remind you of anything? Like, say, Coverflow?
Coverflow, which, like Siri, was not a Jobs creation but a Jobs purchase, was divisive, but a major step towards making computing feel more natural. Why browse through filenames when you can swipe through photos? After all, what's more pleasurable: leafing through a photo album, or consulting a table of contents?
MOBILE WEB BROWSING
Though the internet hasn't been around very long, it quickly became indispensable--and so we immediately began dreaming of a way to carry it around with us in our pockets. Constant connectivity is a major world-shift in communications, reference, and utility, and it all starts with mobile web browsing.
The iPhone did not, of course, invent mobile web browsing. WAP browsing had been around for years, and even more sophisticated versions had been available with pre-iPhone smartphones like the BlackBerry and Palm Treo. But the iPhone was the first to truly deliver the full browsing experience on a cellphone--the (for the time) huge screen, fast panning, and natural navigation made it something totally new. Although, it wasn't created in a vacuum.
Jakob Nielsen, a veteran of Sun Microsystems (and recipient of several glowing epithets about his prominence as a thinker on web usability, including "czar," "king," "guru," and, best of all, "Usability Pope") wrote in his "Predictions for the Web for 1999" that "Mobile access will be the third Killer App for the Internet after email and Web browsing." Somewhat optimistically, he predicted that "During 1999, it will become common to access the Internet from portable devices with a wireless modem." But while the physical data connection may have been possible much earlier, mobile web browsing wouldn't become truly mainstream until the iPhone.
Another go-to concept for sci-fi, and another real-life gadget that had existed before a Jobs released his version--but that seemed hopelessly, instantly clumsy when Jobs showed his. The iPad was the device that finally brought tablets to the mainstream, but it also may be the shape of things to come--simpler gadgets, operating by touch, living in the cloud.
There are so, so many examples of sci-fi tablets--check out Gizmodo's compliation for some good ones--the example that always comes to mind for us is the fictional Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, an electronic book that features heavily in the real-life book/radio/film series of the same name. The Guide isn't a book so much as a digital repository of lightly curated information, called up by a voice search, which is theoretically compiled by one group. But more practically, wrote author Douglas Adams, "most of the actual work got done by any passing stranger who happened to wander into the empty offices of an afternoon and saw something worth doing." That's a surprisingly apt description of the App Store, and the Guide itself--a repository of all knowledge, constantly expanding, in multimedia digital form--is more than a little reminiscent of the iPad.
Back in the late '80s, my wife came home from her job (as a graphic computer artist for a Major Oil Company here in Houston) somewhat amused. She had been talking with one of the senior geophysicists about a graphics project she was working on for him and, upon mentioning that she and I had 2 Mac+s at home and that we used them for our desktop publishing business, he took her on a tour of the Geophysics Lab, where they had a Cray X-MP supercomputer.
The funny thing, and the thing that they were proud of, was that they were using a Mac+ as their I/O Front End! Why? Simple - the Mac+ used the Motorola 6800 series, which was designed for graphics, and the Mac+ had the highest resolution screen of any small computer on the market at the time!
Yes, Jobs - like Gates before him - was a visionary and, along with Gates, totally revolutionized computing by taking it out of the hands of the white coated "authorities" in the Computer Facility with their flashing lights and their spinning tape reels and putting it on people's desktops!
wow its crazy how much we have accomplished in the last 20 years. we certainly are moving at a very fast rate with technology.
The people of the world only divide into two kinds, One sort with brains who hold no religion, The other with religion and no brain.
- Abu-al-Ala al-Marri
Ha, ha, I can remember watching a black and white tube tv and one of my brothers or sisters to go to the antenna and move it. They touch and I say GREAT, DONT MOVE! They walk away and the picture go from snowy to snowier... and I say no no, go back and hold the antenna! They grab it and say great! Eventually a few seconds pass and they seem me enjoying the program and leave and I have to learn to enjoy the very snowy picture of black and white. I think we had 4 channels too.
Also, sometimes the TV would not come on at all. We all had the habit of banging the TV counsel on top to shake the tubes to fall into place to it would come on, lol, ha ha ha! ;)
I wouldn't characterize Jobs or Gates as visionaries. They were more just intelligent, creative, ambitious guys that got their lucky break. A case of being in the right place at the right time.
I don't mean to discount what Jobs or Gates achieved, because they were both obviously very successful. But without either of them getting the financial backing to pursue their ideas when they did, it's unlikely we would know who they are today. A great idea is worth nothing in the marketplace unless it gets the financial backing to bring it to fruition.
For every success story like Jobs or Gates, I'd bet there are at least 100 guys that had great ideas for products but could not raise the money to bring them to market.
As an inventor/entrepreneur myself, I understand how difficult it can be to raise money. Sadly, the VC guys that have money to invest generally don't have a good grasp of technical issues. They're mostly interested in the next Facebook or Groupon fad. And these business school grads don't have the patience or foresight to look at the market potential of new or original concepts.
This arcticle is the finest example of how to credit someone for this he didn't acomplished. I hope that when I die people credit me for a lot of things I never done. Maybe I have to find some fanboys in influent magazines first...
very nice share thank you.
<a href="http://www.biltekekademi.com/bilgisayar-kursu.html rel="dofollow">Bilgisayar Kursu</a>
"he was responsible for so many of today's real-life consummations of past predictions."
Let's not sugar coat this any more than has already been done. Steve Jobs, was a great man, but neither he or Apple were responsible for technical innovations in any of the areas you've mentioned here.
Videophones - we have video conferencing at one level or another for many decades, with the first IP trans continental teleconferencing happening around 1995. Technologies like netmeeting shipped with windows 95 osr2, which shipped in late 1997. We've also had 3g mobile video calls in the early 2000's.
Voice Command - there are many many cases of this over recent history. Siri was a purchase by apple of another vendor, but even before that, on mobile devices we've had voice searching on android devices, and TellMe technology on windows mobile which dates back to 1997.
gestures - many software implementations exist of gesture technology. My memory fails me on who really pushed it first.. i remember using it many years ago in the likes of Maxthon Browser which dates back around 8 years, and i'm sure there were open source implementations dating back prior to this.
tablets - aside from the newton, which was more a PDA akin to PSION organisers, apple shied away from tablets, especially during their resurgence which dates back to the early 2000s as Microsoft pushed tablet editions of its windows operating systems.
"Yes, Jobs - like Gates before him- was a visionary"
Not to be a troll, but your knowledge of the history of the last forty years is tenuous, at best. Gates was the Johnny-come-lately to personal computing, by about ten years. If Jobs hadn't put the fear of God into Big Blue, Gates would still be writing compilers in a Seattle loft.
Your story about the little Mac+ fronting the Cray is familiar. I had the same experience about five years earlier, except that the big, dumb computer on the other end of the wire was a CDC Cyber 64.
Great blog you have here, hope you wont mind if I retweet your blog posts to my twitters account. (:~)
ÇOK İYİ BİR SİTE.
I wish you success in a very nice site