Thursday, March 19, 2009

Dynabook: The Future Awaits

In 1968 Alan Kay first wrote about Dynabook. I remember reading about it and being quite excited about the concept. Since then I've watched as a number of what I call "Vision Projects" formed the basis for generations of dreamers. Among the early things I'd identify as vision projects would be the orbiting space station which was so beautifully conceptualized in Warner von Braun and Willy Ley's books in the 1950's. We didn't do it that way. It would have been better if we had. Perhaps we'd have the Space Colonies envisioned by Gerald O'Neill. O'Neill's vision project is the O'Neill Space Colony often referred to as L5.

Yet another vision project is Eric Drexler's nanotechnology as well as the Xanadu vision of Ted Nelson. Each of these is a dramatic goal, likely to only be achieved in the relatively far future. Dynabook is 40 years old and not quite here for example. But the Kindle 2, for example, and some of the notebook PCs that are out there are getting amazingly close even if we have not yet acquired the social infrastructure to make full use of the technology.

It isn't enough to have a vision though. You have to find stepping stones that move you towards the vision. I call those stepping stones Focus Projects. Each plays a role as a component, one more small step for man culminating over time in a giant leap for mankind.

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