Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Technology

This 1981 BYTE Magazine Cover Explains Why We're So Bad At Tech Predictions 276

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the futuristic-but-not-too-futuristic dept.
harrymcc (1641347) writes "If you remember the golden age of BYTE magazine, you remember Robert Tinney's wonderful cover paintings. BYTE's April 1981 cover featured an amazing Tinney image of a smartwatch with a tiny text-oriented interface, QWERTY keyboard, and floppy drive. It's hilarious — but 33 years later, it's also a smart visual explanation of why the future of technology so often bears so little resemblance to anyone's predictions. I wrote about this over at TIME.com. 'Back then, a pundit who started talking about gigabytes of storage or high-resolution color screens or instant access to computers around the world or built-in cameras and music players would have been accused of indulging in science fiction.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

This 1981 BYTE Magazine Cover Explains Why We're So Bad At Tech Predictions

Comments Filter:
  • by Joce640k (829181) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @05:11AM (#46754687) Homepage

    Imagine that Cray computer decides to make a personal computer. It has
    a 150 MHz processor, 200 megabytes of RAM, 1500 megabytes of disk
    storage, a screen resolution of 4096 x 4096 pixels, relies entirely on
    voice recognition for input, fits in your shirt pocket and costs $300.
    What's the first question that the computer community asks?

    "Is it PC compatible?"

    (Source unknown...)

    • The question would be IBM compatible, back in the early 80s

      • by Joce640k (829181)

        Good catch...

        • by Cryacin (657549) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @07:20AM (#46755155)
          This reminds me of Isaac Asimov's Elevator Fallacy. If we imagine ourselves back in the 1800's when buildings were no taller than 10 stories, and then talk about how towering behemoth buildings stretching 100 stories high exist, a science fiction writer would talk about how there would be sky lobbies so that meetings can be held along the way up the building, and that at the end of the day, to avoid the long trek back down the endless stair case, a slide would allow those at the top of the building to travel all the way down in a matter of minutes.

          That, or the elevator would be invented.

          It's exactly these unforseen technological changes that make us laugh at the predictions from earlier, as the pain points back then are completely irrelevant and solved today, only to have new ones exposed that were never even thought of. Who would have considered it abnormal back in the 80's to need to add and remove media constantly from their system, but would even have thought of software needing to be efficient because of power consumption?
          • by zippthorne (748122) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @07:33AM (#46755241) Journal

            The slide would still be pretty neat, though...

          • by NotDrWho (3543773) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @08:46AM (#46755595)

            I like the elevator analogy. The fact is that even when prognostications get something right--they inevitably get the context, implications, and effects all wrong. That's because they get one invention or innovation right, but every invention and innovation has to be understood in the context of the million other inventions, innovations, and social changes that surround it.

            So one person guesses in the mid-19th century that we will have horseless carriages in the future--but also thinks they'll run on steam engines and cause great depletion of our wood and coal supplies. Another person forsees the internal combustion engine, but thinks its only practical use will be in industry. Another person forsees high-grade steel, but thinks it will be used just for girders. Another person forsees an interstate highway system, but thinks it will be used for giant horse-drawn land trains. No one person truly predicts the automobile and its actual effects and implications. No one person puts it all together.

            That's why all these reports that come out predicting the future (beyond the obvious) always crack me up. Such arrogance. About the only prediction guaranteed to be accurate is that the future will be far different than any of us can possibly imagine.

            • by Sun (104778)

              I actually think Jules Verne got a surprising number of things quite accurately. In fact, I seem to recall that his depiction of mid 20th century as less personal and more polluted got him into trouble with his publisher. He did not get all of the inventions 100% accurate, but he did have some pretty impressive hits as far as tone and atmosphere go.

              Shachar

          • by bickerdyke (670000) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @08:47AM (#46755605)

            I also laughed when Asimov described spaceship controls as so complex, that only a robot with a positronic brain could handle them. Yep. a "computer" using levers and pulleys to steer a starship. :-)

    • by dingen (958134)

      So sad we still don't have 4K square screens available for the general public. Everything else has exploded, but pixels are still lacking.

      • You don't need 4K^2 pixels. Your "retina" can't see them anyway, apparently. At least if you're hardware is "iPC" compatible.
        • by narcc (412956)

          That would depend on the physical size of the display and your distance from it.

        • by Joce640k (829181)

          You don't need 4K^2 pixels. Your "retina" can't see them anyway, apparently. At least if you're hardware is "iPC" compatible.

          Sure, and your retina can't see VGA resolution resolution either.

          Not if you stand far enough away from the screen...

        • by CastrTroy (595695)
          That's not going to stop them from doing it. In the next couple of years, a phone with a 4K display [extremetech.com] could be a real possibility. It won't be 4K^2, because the screens aren't square, but it will have the same effective resolution. They have to upgrade something to keep people paying high prices for devices. As technology improves, the same old stuff gets cheaper, and this creates lower profits for manufacturers as the barrier to entry gets lower. This is why you can now buy a laptop for under $300, and wo
    • by Jahta (1141213) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @07:01AM (#46755081)

      If you Google "Byte magazine covers", you'll see that the covers often took a certain amount of artistic license. They were designed to be eye-catching on news-stands. But the content was always very good. I'm sure I'm not the only one who was sorry to see it go.

      • by Dogtanian (588974) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @07:39AM (#46755263) Homepage

        If you Google "Byte magazine covers", you'll see that the covers often took a certain amount of artistic license.

        I'm not even sure that one needs to excuse it as "artistic license".

        To me- and I suspect almost anyone at the time- that looks as if it were quite clearly intended as a non-literal but eye-catching metaphor for "one day we will have wrist watches as powerful as today's personal computers".

        I honestly don't think for a second they were suggesting that such a machine would *actually* resemble a ludicrously miniaturised PC...

        (Skims the actual article)

        Okay, so even the article itself understands that the original image was tongue-in-cheek; something the summary doesn't make so clear. And I do understand the point it's trying to make about predictions of the future looking like the present with high-tech bells on. But at the same time it slightly weakens the point being made, as there are probably many seriously-intended examples of "future tech" that are almost as silly!

      • by gsslay (807818) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @08:00AM (#46755369)

        The cover image is obviously not supposed to be an attempt at predicting what a real working computer on your wrist would look like. If it had attempted this, most readers at a glance would probably not recognise what it was suppose to be.

        So the artist simply took a recognisable object (early 80s computer) and shrunk it onto a wrist. Job done, eye catching cover that the reader can immediately understand.

      • by ruir (2709173)
        No I was not really sorry it was finished. In the 80s the content were rather good, fenomenal, there were some technical insights, and often very interesting and catching articles. By the 90s, the drop in quality was rather noticeable and I wouldnt touch it even with a pole.
  • That micro-floppy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @05:16AM (#46754699)

    ...isn't too far removed from a micro-SD card.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      In appearance maybe, but the technology itself is not even close.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by petes_PoV (912422)
        Forget the tech - that's the least important part. The function is exactly the same: removable storage. So in that respect it works just fine.

        You also have to remember that the cover (and all articles about "the future") are written for a contemporary audience. Therefore all the stuff mentioned or described has to be acceptable to those people. If the artist had just drawn a small plastic chip, it would have been meaningless. A floppy disc, although nobody who could ever claim to be a Byte reader would co

        • Re:That micro-floppy (Score:5, Informative)

          by silentcoder (1241496) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @08:43AM (#46755575) Homepage

          > signposts the idea of miniature storage.

          Indeed, it is still the standard icon for "Save file to disk" almost 2 decades since the most likely disk destination became "the hard drive".

          I remember back in 1998/1999 somewhere one computer magazine ran an article on "what will replace the floppy disk" ? Many ideas were touted, in subsequent letters most readers were betting the farm on ever-cheaper and faster rewriteable optical media as cd-burners got cheaper too.
          Nobody saw the USB flask coming until it was upon us - let alone it's more recent offspring like the MicroSD.

          • by NotDrWho (3543773)

            We always try to write the present on both the future and the past. It's human nature.

          • Nobody saw the USB flask coming until it was upon us - let alone it's more recent offspring like the MicroSD.

            I seem to remember CompactFlash cards being reasonably common before USB flash drives showed up.

            I think the progression was something like: PCMCIA->CF->MMC->SD, and USB Flash (and other stuff like Sony's MemoryStick) branched off around the same time as MMC.

            • >I think the progression was something like: PCMCIA->CF->MMC->SD, and USB Flash (and other stuff like Sony's MemoryStick) branched off around the same time as MMC.

              It's possible that this was a South African magazine - at the time laptops (and thus PCMCIA ports) were pretty much the exclusive terain of executives here - normal folk (even in companies) had desktops.

              I do remember that the article itself concluded that the most likely winner was going to be JAZ Zipdrives... instead they died a quiet

    • by plover (150551) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @07:34AM (#46755243) Homepage Journal

      I think he drawing showed a miniaturized typical computer of the era primarily because the artist wanted it to be recognizable as a computer on the wearer's wrist. A drawing of a Pebble would have shown a smooth featureless slab; it would also have been hard to represent an RF data connection replacing physical data transfers, even if such things had been envisioned 33 years ago. (Although not impossible: Dick Tracy comics showed lightning bolts coming from the "2-way wrist radio" back in the 1950s.)

  • Surely ironic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Trapezium Artist (919330) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @05:25AM (#46754729)

    C'mon, it's entirely obvious that that "PC on a watch" painting is a rather clever piece of irony or even satire, not a meaningful prediction of an actual future piece of technology.

    That doesn't mean I disagree with the point of the discussion, namely that we're not that great at predicting the directions of future tech, but using this magazine cover as a direct illustration of that is, IMHO, rather disingenuous.

    • Re:Surely ironic (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Trapezium Artist (919330) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @05:31AM (#46754747)

      OK, now having read the linked article (oops), I do see that the author (Henry McCracken) realised that the cover painting had a humorous intent (not least that it was the April edition of BYTE), satirising the conservative opinion that future tech was likely to be an extension / miniaturisation of the then-prevalent PC paradigm.

      Good to see I got it, though :-)

      • by Dogtanian (588974)
        Quite how much it was "satire" upon that point or that it was simply a catchy- but still obviously non-literal- visual metaphor (as I commented above) is open to question.

        Either way, it's definitely not meant to be taken straight. I mean, I doubt this computer magazine [computinghistory.org.uk] is literally suggesting that one can squeeze more data into their computer by robot hand forcing it in!
      • by njnnja (2833511)

        The BYTE editorial that the cover was based on was about how new technologies were shrinking computing, such as the 3.5" disk and the Osborne 1. The toshiba "tv-on a watch" was a fail but it's interesting that they noted 2 products of actual historical significance. The editors also made the astute observation that "Osborne is currently seeking approval from the FAA to operate the unit on board a plane". Only took 3 decades!

    • Why satire? Given the current smartphone - is the prediction far off? Sure, the screen can do graphics *and* text, the keyboard is usually on-screen, and the removable storage is flash instead of floppy - but the basics are all there.

      Plus, everyone is saying that the smartwatch is the 'future of wearable computing' - if true, the Byte prediction will be even closer to the truth.

    • Ironic and Iconic (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Tatarize (682683) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @06:58AM (#46755059) Homepage

      Does anybody else want a mini-sd card form factored to look like a mini-floppy disk? I sure do. And now since I've mentioned it, you do too.

      • by bytesex (112972)

        I guess this is what that moment is called just before somebody makes a million bucks off of a simple idea.

  • Looking at the image it's totally clear to me that it's just visual metaphor. Clearly the artist was not suggesting that this was a workable idea, simply that watches would soon be like computers. This rather makes the rest of your analysis seems fragile.

    • by Joce640k (829181)

      The article makes it abundantly clear that this it's satire.

      I'm guessing the submitter didn't bother to click his own link.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The submitter is the author of the article, you dimwit.

        I guess you didn't bother to read the summary.

  • by Arduenn (2908841) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @05:30AM (#46754745)

    FTFA:

    "it's also a smart visual explanation of why the future of technology so often bears so little resemblance to anyone's predictions"

    No, it's not an explanation at all. It was intended as a metaphor for miniaturization of electronics. Noone in their right mind would take a full QWERTY keyboard with keys the size of pin heads literally.

    • Noone in their right mind would take a full QWERTY keyboard with keys the size of pin heads literally.

      Do you mean these guys [firstpost.com]?

    • Casio did. Well, it was an alphabetic order rather than QWERTY, but they did put it in their organiser line of watches.
    • Noone in their right mind would take a full QWERTY keyboard with keys the size of pin heads literally.

      Obviously. I mean, there are much better input methods for such things, namely Dvorak.

  • It is art (Score:5, Informative)

    by art6217 (757847) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @05:32AM (#46754755)
    It is art, no prediction. It is obvious from the first glance. And the article confirms it:

    If you're tempted to assume that the image was actually a serious depiction of what a future wrist computer might look like-well, no. Inside the magazine, which only had a brief editiorial about future computers, the editors pointed out that it wasn't a coincidence that it happened to be the April issue of Byte.

  • by phizi0n (1237812) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @05:33AM (#46754757)

    Anyone with half a brain could realize that watches would never have keyboards so tiny that the only button you could press using your fingers (more-so your nails) would be the space-bar. The rest of the image is plausible and not far removed from what we have now.

  • It's pretty obvious that it was a visual joke rather than a serious representation of a computer on a wrist. Anyway no smart watch has managed to sell well so it's not like what we call a smart watch today is what people want either.
  • Something lost (Score:5, Interesting)

    by guises (2423402) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @05:55AM (#46754815)
    Ugh. Every once in a while I'm reminded of just how much we've lost (and continue to lose) with the death of print media. Byte was shut down before its time, but there used to be so many good zines like it.

    I guess 2600 is still around, maybe I should get a subscription before I forget. Are there any other decent zines still in print? I should do an Ask Slashdot instead of just posting a comment...
    • by Viol8 (599362)

      Agreed. Byte was shutdown for unknown reasons buy its publisher - its circulation at the time was still way higher than most tech magazines. It could easily have still made a ton of money and still be going.

    • by Megane (129182)
      Byte was dead by 1993. There was some kind of Computer Shopper clone magazine that took its place (and name) for quite a few years thereafter, but it wasn't Byte. They even managed to get Pournelle's column into this doppelganger of Byte.
      • by LWATCDR (28044)

        Once Circuit Cellar was gone Byte was on a death watch. I blame the PC really for Bytes death since it limited subject matter that made money and there were a number of PC mags that covered just the PC.
        In the early days you had Apple IIs, Tis, Commodores, Ataris, TRS-80s, Cocos, Sinclairs, a huge number of CP/Ms machines, PCs, and even 86 based machines that were not PC compatible like the Tandy 2000, Zenith 100, DEC Rainbow, and Ti Pro. Then you hand systems like the Altos and Sage.
        Later you had the Mac, A

  • by Bazman (4849) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @05:58AM (#46754821) Journal

    The prediction fail with that watch is the idea that you need any form of input. These days, phones, tablets, and smartwatches are purely consumption devices, designed to pump content into your brain, force you to watch ads, and take money from your pocket. At least, that's what the big corporations want. How many futurists saw that coming?

    • You could plug a smartphone or tablet into a screen and with a bluetooth mouse and keyboard quite happily create things.

    • Depends on how much credit you want to give for predictions that correctly interpret the purpose and effect of the shift; but provide no technical detail whatsoever.

      Would the grim ruminations of the marxists concerning the distribution of the means of production qualify? They tend to either be writing about smokestack industry or broad historical trends, specific implementation unspecified; but some of them would probably feel pretty well validated by the (substantial) shift from computers that provide p
    • by kamapuaa (555446)

      Plenty of futurists imagined watches that functioned as one-way radios or one-way TVs.

      Short of a two-way radio, I can't think of anybody imagining a wristwatch would be a great way to create content.

    • by Tokolosh (1256448)

      "It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future." Apparently an old Danish saying, but attributed to various people.

  • by Beck_Neard (3612467) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @06:11AM (#46754867)
    We genuinely are bad at predicting the future of tech, but it's usually not because we're too fanciful. It's usually the opposite. Tech predictions usually fail because we're way too conservative. That's partly the reason behind this joke drawing in 1981. Now predictions about almost everything else - society, politics, and social adoption of tech - are usually way too optimistic. But tech predictions are way too pessimistic. Here's my effort at a perhaps better future prediction: We'll have much better AI than we do today and it will know everything about everyone. Yet it will not be google, or anything like google, but a service catering to intelligence agencies. Poverty and destruction of the ecosystem will continue at a worse pace than it is going now. We will have the capability to cheaply explore other planets, but we won't actually have a colony on any planets. We'll have the capability to feed everyone in the world yet global hunger will still exist and maybe even be worse than it is today. Rich nations will be richer and poor nations will be poorer. Strong AI will eventually come about then promptly proceed to kill everyone. Not because it hates us, just for liebensraum. Have a nice day.
    • by khakipuce (625944)

      I think you need to look at what drives innovation, i.e. making money. This in general this is done by making things more efficient, which has been going on since at least the industrial revolution and selling things that people need or want which has been going on at least since people started building towns.

      Going to other planets takes a lot of energy an is expensive, how does it make anyone money? Until someone finds a big return on investment from space travel, either because it makes something more ef

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @06:29AM (#46754941)

    instant access to computers around the world

    Actually, in 1981 the internet existed, you could FTP and use email, as long as you knew the bang path routing.

    It wasn't for 2 more years after 1981 that I learned of it, but I knew people that were using it in the late 70's even. Contrary to what seems to be the popular public belief, the internet didn't start in the 1990's. That's just when the masses became aware of it, largely due to the influx of AOLers.

    Granted it was much smaller then as far as number of connected machines.

    • by Viol8 (599362)

      Quite. Its amazing how many people today still think the internet = the web. Mention stuff like ftp, gopher, archie or WAIS and you just get blank looks.

      • In the early-mid 80s it was no sure thing your email and your friend's email addresses could find their way to each other. I do remember gopher and archie being very cool. The "web" was annoyingly slow to me when I first started playing with it. Also remember USENET! It still exists I guess - haven't looked - but rec.xxx had awsome "forums" and who can forget their first furtive foray into alt.binaries....
        • by Viol8 (599362)

          Yeah , usenet is still around. There arn't many servers that still carry it even for a price, but there is one good free one - aioe.org though how much longer it'll be around is anyones guess. Google seem to be doing their best to stuff up google groups however.

        • And before tools existed to automate it, cut/pasting the various alt.binaries files (1/6, 2/6 etc) together prior to feeding it to your uudecoder.
  • If we imagine society as noise of randomly colored dots, for example, blue dots can represents people currently connected to Facebook. There are so many blue dots in current society, that highly intelligent person could easily predict this even 20 years ago, right? Well, problem is, this color first appeared couple of years ago, there was no blue color among dots we see *at all*. Breakthrough events that forms society like this comes like explosion, and brings new colors that was never seen before. We can p
  • Sci-Fi? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I find this statement very ironic:
    "I wrote about this over at TIME.com. 'Back then, a pundit who started talking about gigabytes of storage or high-resolution color screens or instant access to computers around the world or built-in cameras and music players would have been accused of indulging in science fiction.'"

    Especially when you consider, science has a hard time predicting future trends and technologies, yet Science Fiction seems to have been fairly accurate in predicting, if not outright influencing,

    • by nblender (741424)

      I remember seeing Captain Piccard signing daily status reports on something that I now recognize as a 10" tablet.

      Gene Roddenberry was a time traveller from 2030. He was a washed up historical fiction screen writer so he procured a trip on a black market time machine and came back to the era he loved the most and wrote Star Trek.

  • by carlhaagen (1021273) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @06:36AM (#46754977)
    The cover art was delivering the message of the "wrist-worn/hand-held computer". It was neither joke nor prediction; it was symbolism.
  • by zhrike (448699) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @07:24AM (#46755187)

    "This 1981 BYTE Magazine Cover Explains Why We're So Bad At Tech Predictions"

    No it doesn't. Even if the image was a depiction of a serious prediction (which it was/is not); it "explains" nothing. There is no "why" inherent in the image.

  • by dtmos (447842) * on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @07:36AM (#46755253)

    I always thought the most unlikely technological development in my lifetime was the handheld GPS device. It would be "most unlikely" because it required tremendous, simultaneous, and largely unforeseen advances in several different technologies, each of which was hard to predict in 1981. The list is at least:

    1. Low power, low voltage, low noise L-band receivers, sensitive enough to be compatible with the weak signal coming from the internal antenna of a handheld device;
    2. Stupendous amounts of digital signal processing, also at low power and low voltage;
    3. Digital map databases of (substantially) every road in the world, accurate to a few meters;
    4. A substantially world-wide, wideband wireless data link to get the digital map into the handheld device in the first place;
    5. Low power, low voltage, high resolution, multicolor flat panel displays;
    6. Gigabytes of low power, low voltage data storage memory; and
    7. High energy density, high power density batteries capable of supplying the whole thing.

    And, perhaps most impressive of all, the manufacturing technology to make all of the above small enough to fit in a handheld device, at a price low enough to sell by the zillions.

    Of the list above, probably only #2 could have been predicted, and then only if one were willing to extrapolate the then-relatively-new Moore's Law by a very large amount. (Recall that Mead and Conway had only written their Introduction to VLSI systems the previous year; until then it was not clear that such complex chips could even be designed on human time scales, let alone built for a profit.)

    The fact that a handheld GPS device is now an anachronism, since the technology is now small enough and low-power enough to be integrated into other handheld devices, like smart phones, pleases me no end.

    • by m00sh (2538182)

      I always thought the most unlikely technological development in my lifetime was the handheld GPS device. It would be "most unlikely" because it required tremendous, simultaneous, and largely unforeseen advances in several different technologies, each of which was hard to predict in 1981.

      All of these are not necessary for GPS. Most people use GPS in their cars and low voltage, low power stuff doesn't matter there. Also, gigabytes of data also doesn't matter because you could have city-wide maps only that you could swap in and out. There have always been maps of every road and digitizing it isn't that big a deal.

  • by azadrozny (576352) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @07:51AM (#46755319)

    From the article:

    We tend to think that new products will be a lot like the ones we know. We shoehorn existing concepts where they don’t belong. Oftentimes, we don’t dream big enough.

    I have found this to be a serious problem for system designers. When gathering requirements we often ask users what they want, or what they need. They then give us narrow response like "a button that does X" or "a screen that shows me Y". This can be valuable input, however these requests are based on their knowledge of what can be designed with "yesterday's" technology. A better question to ask is "what do you do?". I have found that responses to this question (purposefully open ended) give the system designers the freedom to streamline the users job, and tools that will actually make them more productive.

  • by Flytrap (939609) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @07:56AM (#46755341)

    Paging through that magazine reminded me of why I got into computer engineering to begin with... I remember looking forward to each magazine, for the various programming quickies... I remember waiting for my first PCB etching kit so that I could design my own circuit boards...

    Sigh.

    When men were real men and computer engineers were real engineers.

  • One thing that sticks in my mind from when I was a child was artists' impressions of "The Car of the Future". They had shapes like half-sucked wine-gums - fug-ugly I thought.

    That has come true.
  • by RealGene (1025017) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @08:08AM (#46755405)
    1. Introduction of the Osborne I portable.
    2. Introduction of the Sony 3.5" floppy disk (875K!).
  • by John Jorsett (171560) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @08:11AM (#46755423)

    I remember reading one of Robert Heinlein's novels in which a character (Slipstick Libby, perhaps) was on a rocket ship and dealing with a computer. Via punch cards.

  • "First, it reminds us that the smartwatch is not a new idea. Even in 1981, tech companies had been trying to build them for awhile:"

    `Consider the wrist radio introduced in Tracy on January 13, 1946. No other single aspect of Dick Tracy has received more press and coverage in newspaper and magazine articles than the wrist radio' - "Dick Tracy and American Culture: Morality and Mythology, Text and Context" by Garyn G. Roberts
  • Looks like they already had Powerpoint in '81, judging from the schema-art in the advertisements :-)
  • It looks like that watch might be running MS/TRES

  • We are bad at predicting the future because it cannot be predicted.

    The gadgets that we think about as "the future" (actually: only the future of technology - the broad-brush future of the planet is vert easy to predict. We know how high the population will grow, when the max. will be reached and where all those people will live and when they will die. Omitting disasters (natural or man-made), wars and pestilence our future is easy to map) are totally subject to random decisions: which standard will be adop

  • Those of us who love science fiction are used to this. It's fun to go back and read what some of the authors in the 1950's thought the future would look like. My personal favorite is that no thought it given to miniaturization; everything still uses tubes. Exotic tubes with magical abilities (like the power tubes in the Venus Equilateral series), but still vacuum tubes with filaments.

    When it comes to computers, it's just as hit and miss. The way some authors handle artificial intelligence is by insisting th

  • It's seldom that Slashdot takes me on a Wikipedia-like adventure. But once I was there and realized that archive.org is more than a Wayback Machine, I started looking up issues of RUN magazine (C=64 and C=128 centric magazine of the time). I was determined not to stop until I found the two "Magic" articles that they published for me. Issue 65 and Issue 69, long lost in the real world, and now added to my digital trophy case.

    I can't believe I was programming 8502 assembly language back then and haven't so mu

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @10:00AM (#46756117) Homepage

    " why the future of technology so often bears so little resemblance to anyone's predictions"

    It seems to me that most predictions were dead on accurate. I have a freaking Star Trek tablet that the captain used for data and logging, Giant display screen with the world on it in every home, communicate around the globe over light or via magical robots in the sky( satellites) , freaking dick tracy watches have existed for 3 years now (search ebay for "gsm watch") etc... Cars are about to drive themselves, Airplanes have flown themselves for decades. etc....

    I'm thinking the author has zero clue as to what he is talking about in tech let alone predictions that were made in the past and how dead on accurate they were.

"Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago." -- Bernard Berenson

Working...