We enjoy such an abundance of computing riches that it’s easy to take wonderful technological ideas for granted. Yet so many of the pieces of our modern computing experience that we consider routine today were at one time unimaginable. After all, back in the early days of computing, we were still discovering what these newfangled room-filling gadgets might eventually become capable of — who could have known then what using computers would be like today?
Of course, we have these technologies today because some visionaries did know, did imagine them… and, best of all, built and demonstrated them.
Hence today’s challenge:
Quiz: For each of the following 16 technologies that have become commonplace in our modern computing experience, give the researcher/team and approximate year that a working prototype was first demonstrated. How many can you answer without a web search?
- The personal computer for dedicated individual use, that one person can have at their disposal all day long. (Hint: Before the Altair in 1975 and Apple I in 1976.)
- Mouse input with a graphical pointer. (Hint: Before the Xerox Alto at Xerox PARC in 1973.)
- Internetworks across campuses and cities. (Hint: Before Ethernet at Xerox PARC (again) in 1973.)
- Discovery of ‘who’s got what service’ in an internetwork.
- Using internetworks for live collaboration, not just file sharing. (Hint: Before RDP and others.)
- Hierarchical structure within a file system and within a document. (Hint: Before Unix.)
- Cut/copy/paste, with drag-and-drop.
- Paper metaphor for word processing, starting with a blank piece of paper and the applying formatting and navigating levels in the structure of text.
- Advanced pattern search and macro search within documents. (Hint: Before MIT’s Emacs.)
- Keyword search and multiple weighted keyword search. (Hint: Long before Google (alternate link).)
- Information retrieval through indirect construction of a catalog.
- Flexible interactive formatting and line drawing.
- Hyperlinks within a document and across documents, and “jumping on a link” to navigate. (Hint: Before Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989-1990.) (Hint’: Yes, before HyperCard too.)
- Tagging graphics, and parts of graphics, as hyperlinks. (Hint: Before Flickr.)
- Workgroup collaboration on a document, including collaborative annotations, allowing members of a group to use and modify a document. (Hint: Before Lotus Notes and Ward Cunningham’s Wikis.)
- The next step up from that: Live collaboration on a document with screen sharing on the two writers’ computers so they can see what the other is doing — with live audio/video teleconference in a window at the same time. (Hint: Not Skype or LiveMeeting.)