Thursday, December 31, 2009

HitchHiker's IGuide to the Galaxy

Today I had a "deja vu all over again" moment when I read some technology blog posts speculating about the arrival of the new Apple IPad tablet. A lot of technology prognosticators were putting forth their positions on the been-there-done-that experience with tablet PCs. I was having a deja vu moment because while the IPad exhibited all of the amazing human factors and industrial engineering that is all things Apple, I was taking a stroll down IGuide memory lane.

Enter the technology time machine and return to 1988 when WANG Laboratories as developing its Freestyle product. Freestyle was a product ahead of its time. You could write with a stylus to sign documents on the screen, use your mouse to move documents around, add voice annotations to your documents to convey important ideas along with the contents.

Freestyle was to be followed by a handheld PDA like device that incorporated lots of the features of Freestyle into something you could cart around with you. The IGuide would let you store all of your important information in portable wireless form.

Stephen Levine, technologist and inventor extraordinaire, created a cult following within the R&D world at WANG. To inspire the troops Dr. Levine, who had a fishphone on his desk, invited Douglas Addams, the author of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, to come in and give a talk about his books and about the "guide" that the characters had with them. The future arrived in 1988.

The video is vintage Steve Levine demonstrating Freestyle. (Prior art alert...) Enjoy.

(The video takes about 20 seconds to get started.)

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