2011年11月30日 星期三

"Third Paradigm" computing --- Ubiquitous Computing

In 1991, Mark Weiser of Xerox PARC wrote an article for Scientific American magazine entitled The Computer for the 21st Century, describing an envisioned concept called Ubiquitous Computing:

“Ubiquitous computing names the third wave in computing, just now beginning. First were mainframes, each shared by lots of people. Now we are in the personal computing era, person and machine staring uneasily at each other across the desktop. Next comes ubiquitous computing, or the age of calm technology, when technology recedes into the background of our lives.”

More specifically:

"Ubiquitous computers will also come in different sizes, each suited to a particular task. My colleagues and I have built what we call tabs, pads and boards: inch-scale machines that approximate active Post-It notes, foot-scale ones that behave something like a sheet of paper (or a book or a magazine), and yard-scale displays that are the equivalent of a blackboard or bulletin board."

What expression ~

Ubiquitous computing is roughly the opposite of virtual reality. Where virtual reality puts people inside a computer-generated world, ubiquitous computing forces the computer to live out here in the world with people.

The initial incarnation of ubiquitous computing was in the form of "tabs", "pads", and "boards" built at Xerox PARC, 1988-1994. Several papers describe this work, and there are web pages for the Tabs and for the Boards.

  • Weiser wrote: "Tabs are the smallest components of embodied virtuality. Because they are interconnected, tabs will expand on the usefulness of existing inch-scale computers such as the pocket calculator and the pocket organizer. Tabs will also take on functions that no computer performs today. For example [...] badges can identify themselves to receivers placed throughout a building, thus making it possible to keep track of the people or objects to which they are attached."

  • Weiser continued: "The next step up in size is the pad (A4 size), something of a cross between a sheet of paper and current laptop and palmtop computers. [...] Pads differ from conventional portable computers in one crucial way. Whereas portable computers go everywhere with their owners, the pad that must be carried from place to place is a failure. Pads are intended to be "scrap computers" (analogous to scrap paper) that can be grabbed and used anywhere; they have no individualized identity or importance."

  • The final device is wall sized: "Yard-size displays (boards) serve a number of purposes: in the home, video screens and bulletin boards; in the office, bulletin boards, whiteboards or flip charts. A board might also serve as an electronic bookcase from which one might download texts to a pad or tab. For the time being, however, the ability to pull out a book and place it comfortably on one's lap remains one of the many attractions of paper."

Seeing more details in YouTube ...