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

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

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  • 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.

  • Re:That micro-floppy (Score:2, Informative)

    by DarwinSurvivor ( 1752106 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @05:51AM (#46754809)
    In appearance maybe, but the technology itself is not even close.
  • Re:Fair point but. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @05:54AM (#46754813)

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

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

  • 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 DrXym ( 126579 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @07:56AM (#46755339)
    Some buildings do [] have slides
  • Re:That micro-floppy (Score:5, Informative)

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

    > 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 tsqr ( 808554 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @10:00AM (#46756121)

    And yet, some sci-fi authors have shown amazing technology foresight. In the dystopian novel "Shockwave Rider" (1975), John Brunner coined the term "worm" to describe a malicious program that propagates itself through a computer network. And though he failed to predict the smartphone, his protagonist uses public phone terminals to hack government computer systems and create new identities for himself. Really, a remarkable book.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982