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At breakfast Sal reads the news. She still prefers the paper form, as do most people. She spots an interesting quote from a columnist in the business section. She wipes her pen over the newspaper's name, date, section, and page number and then circles the quote. The pen sends a message to the paper, which transmits the quote to her office.
Once Sal arrives at work, the foreview (in her car) helps her to quickly find a parking spot. As she walks into the building the machines in her office prepare to log her in, but don't complete the sequence until she actually enters her office. On her way, she stops by the offices of four or five colleagues to exchange greetings and news. The telltale by the door that Sal programmed her first day on the job is blinking: fresh coffee. She heads for the coffee machine.
Coming back to her office, Sal picks up a tab and "waves" it to her friend Joe in the design group, with whom she is sharing a virtual office for a few weeks. They have a joint assignment on her latest project. Virtual office sharing can take many forms -- in this case, the two have given each other access to their location detectors and to each other's screen contents and location ... A blank tab on Sal's desk beeps, and displays the word "Joe" on it. She picks it up and gestures with it towards her liveboard. Joe wants to discuss a document with her, and now it shows up on the wall as she hears Joe's voice ...
Read the whole "Survival of the Fittest Jini Services" series:
In the above words from a 1991 Scientific American article, "The Computer for the 21st Century," the late Mark Weiser, then head of Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), shares his vision of a world in which computing technology quietly disappears into the background of everyday life, making itself unnoticeable, and yet indispensable. In the age of "calm computing," as Weiser described his vision, a person uses many computing devices, and these devices make information available ubiquitously, regardless of time or geographic location.
For most of us, the truly indispensable things in life become unnoticeable. We take for granted the telephone, the automobile, ATM machines, and lately email and the Internet -- and perhaps only notice them when they don't work as we expect.
However, while we take these tools of information processing and access for granted, we still can't do the same with the information itself. We would be looked upon with sharp eyes, should we, while traveling in our automobile, ask the car the name of the restaurant we enjoyed so much a few months before; or if, while at home, we ask our speaker system the current balance of our bank account. Currently, our activities are still focused around the tools of information access, and not around the information itself. The age of calm computing -- when the tools recede into the background, and we are free to interact with the information in a smooth, natural way -- has not yet arrived.