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  • what is

  • it about this machine? Why is this machine so interesting? Why has it been so influential?

  • Ah ahm, I'll give you my point of view on it. I remember reading a magazine article

  • a long time ago ah when I was ah twelve years ago maybe, in I think it was Scientific American.

  • I'm not sure. And the article ahm proposed to measure the efficiency of locomotion for

  • ah lots of species on planet earth to see which species was the most efficient at getting

  • from point A to point B. Ah and they measured the killer calories that each one expended.

  • So ah they ranked them all and I remember that ahm...ah the Condor, Condor was the most

  • efficient at [CLEARS THROAT] getting from point A to point B. And humankind, the crown

  • of creation came in with a rather unimpressive showing about a third of the way down the

  • list. So ah that didn't look so great. But ah, let me do this over again.

  • I remember ah reading an article when I was about twelve years old. I think it might have

  • been Scientific American where they measured the efficiency of locomotion of all these

  • species on planet earth. How many killer calories did they expend to get from point A to point

  • B? And the Condor came in at the top of the list ah surpassed everything else. And humans

  • came in about a third of the way down the list which was not such a great showing for

  • the crown of creation. And ah but somebody there had the imagination

  • to test the efficiency of a human riding a bicycle. A human riding a bicycle blew away

  • the Condor all the way off the top of the list. And it made a really big impression

  • on me that we humans are tool builders. And that we can fashion tools that amplify these

  • inherent abilities that we have to spectacular magnitudes. And so for me, a computer has

  • always been a bicycle of the mind. Ah something that takes us far beyond our inherent abilities.

  • And ah I think we're just at the early stages of this tool. Very early stages. And we've

  • come only a very short distance. And it's still in its formation, but already we've

  • seen enormous changes. I think that's nothing compared to what's coming in the next hundred

  • years. In program six we're going to look at some

  • of the past predictions of why people have been so wrong about the future. And one of

  • the notions is that today's vision of a standalone computer is just as limited as those past

  • visions of it being only a number cruncher. What's the difference philosophically between

  • a network machine and a standalone machine? Let me answer that question a slightly different

  • way. There have been, if you look at why the majority

  • of people have bought these things so far, ah there have been two real explosions that

  • have propelled the industry forward. The first one ah really happened in 1977. And it was

  • the spreadsheets. I remember when ah Dan Fylstra who ran the company that marketed the first

  • spreadsheet, walked not my office at Apple one day and pulled out this disk from his

  • vest pocket and said, "I...I have this incredible new program. I call it a visual calculator."

  • And it became Visicalc. And that's what really drove, propelled the Apple to...to the success

  • it achieved more than any other single event. And...and with ah the invention of Lotus 123,

  • and I think it was 1982, that's what really propelled the IBM PC to the level of success

  • that it achieved. So that was the first explosion was the spreadsheet. Ahm the second major

  • explosion has driven our, the desktop industry has been desktop publishing. [MISC BACKGROUND]

  • The...the second really bit explosion in our industry has been desktop publishing. Happened

  • in 1985 with the Macintosh and the laser writer printer. And at that point people could start

  • to do on their desktops things that only typesetters and printers could do prior to that. And that's

  • been a very big revolution in publishing. And those are really, those two explosions

  • have been the only two real major revolutions which have caused a lot of people to buy these

  • things and use them. Ah the third one is starting to happen now. And the third one is let's

  • do for human to human communication what spreadsheets did for financial planning and what public,

  • desktop publishing did for publishing. Let's revolutionize it using these desktop devices.

  • And we're already starting to see the signs of that.

  • As an example in an organization, we're starting to see that as business conditions change

  • faster and faster with each year, ah we cannot change our management hierarchical organization

  • very fast relative to the changing business conditions. We can't have somebody working

  • for a new boss every week. We also can't change our geographic organization very fast. As

  • a matter of fact even slower than the management one. We can't be moving people around the

  • country every week. But we can change an electronic organization like that. And what's starting

  • to happen is as we start to link these computers together with sophisticated networks and great

  • user interfaces, we're starting to be able to create clusters of people working on a

  • common task in a s... you know literally in fifteen minutes worth of setup. And these

  • fifteen people can work together extremely efficiently no matter where they are geographically.

  • And no matter who they work for hierarchically. And these organizations can live for as long

  • as they're needed and then vanish. And we're finding we can reorganize our companies electronically

  • ah very rapidly. And that's the only type of organization that can begin to keep pace

  • with the changing business conditions. And I believe that this collaborative model

  • has existed in higher education for a long time. But we're starting to see it applied

  • into the commercial world as well. And this is going to be the third major revolution

  • that these desktop computers provide is revolutionizing human to human communication in group work.

  • We call it interpersonal computing. In the 1985 we did personal computing. Ah and now

  • we're going to extend that as we network these things to interpersonal computing.

  • What was the image of the computer in the mid 196Os or whenever you first saw one? And

  • where are we now? I ahm, I first saw my first computer when

  • I was twelve. [MUMBLES] I saw my first computer when I was twelve. And it was at NASA. We

  • had a local NASA center nearby. And it was a terminal, which was connected to a big computer

  • somewhere and I got a timesharing account on it. And I was fascinated by this thing.

  • And I saw my second computer a few years later which was really the first desktop computer

  • ever made. It was made by Hewlett Packard. It was called the 9100-A. And it ran a language

  • called Basic. And it was very large. It had a very small cathode ray tube on it for display.

  • And I got a chance to play with one of those maybe in 1968 or 9. And ah spent every spare

  • moment I had trying to write programs I was so fascinated by this. Ah and so I was probably

  • fairly lucky. And then my introduction to computers very rapidly moved from a terminal

  • to within maybe twelve months or so, actually seeing one of the first, probably the first

  • desktop computer ever...ever really produced. And ah so my point of view never really changed

  • from being able to get my arms around it even though my arms didn't quite fit around that

  • first one. What was the role, how have personal computers

  • changed the landscape of computers? I mean back then it was centralized power, it was

  • in a mainframe. Now we have three times as much power at the fringe than we have in the

  • center, five times as much power. How did the PC change the world?

  • Well, though the analogy is nowhere perfect and certainly ah one needs to factor out the

  • environmental concerns of the analogy as well. Ah there is a lot to be said for comparing

  • it to going from trains, from passenger trains to automobiles. And ah the advent of the automobile

  • gave us a personal freedom of transportation. In the same way the advent of the computer

  • gave us the ability to start to use computers without having to convince other people that

  • we needed to use computers. And the biggest effect of the personal computer revolution

  • has been to ahm allow millions and millions of people to experience computers themselves

  • decades before they ever would have in the old paradigm. And to allow them to ah participate

  • in ah the making of choices and controlling their own destiny using these tools.

  • But it has created ah, it has created problems. And the largest problems are that ah now that

  • we have all these very powerful tools, we're still islands and we're still not really connecting

  • these people using these powerful tools together. And that's really been the challenge of the

  • last few years and the next several years is how to connect these things back together

  • so that we can, can rebuild a fabric of these things rather than just individual points

  • of light if you will. And ahm get the benefit of both, the passenger train and the automobile.

  • What's the vision behind the next machine? Everything that ah, that we've done in our

  • [PAUSES] Everything I've done with computers in my life has been along pretty much a single

  • vector. Ah and next is just one more point on that same vector. Ah in this case what

  • we...we observed was that the computing power we could give to an individual was an order

  • magnitude more than the PCs were given. In the sense that people want to do many things

  • at once and you really need true multi tasking. We really did want to ahm start to network

  • these things together in very sophisticated networks.

  • So the technology to build that became available. And most important we saw a way to build a

  • software system that was about ten times as powerful than any PC. And where new software

  • could be created in a fourth of the time. So we spent four years with ah fifty to a

  • hundred of the best software people we could find building this new software system. And

  • it's turned out beautifully. Ah what happens in our industry... [TAPE CUT]

  • what's the vision behind NEXT? Ahm it's not so much different than everything

  • I've ever done in my life with computers starting with the Apple II and the Macintosh, and now

  • NEXT which is if you ah believe that these are the most incredible tools we've ever built

  • which I do, then the more powerful tool we can give to people, the more they can do with

  • it. And in this case ah we...we found a way to do two or three things that were real breakthroughs.

  • Number one was to put a much more powerful computer in front of people for about the

  • same price as a PC. The second was to integrate that networking into the computer so we can

  • begin to make this next revolution within a personal computing. And the PCs so far have

  • not been able to do that very well. And the third thing, and maybe the most important

  • was to create a whole new software architecture from the ground up that lets us build these

  • new types of applications and let's them, let us, let's us build them in 25 percent

  • of the time that it normally takes to do on a PC. So ah we spent ahm four years with 50

  • to a hundred of the best software people that I know creating a whole new software platform

  • from the ground up. And the way our industry works is that you create this platform software

  • first and then you go out and you get people to write new applications on top of it. Well

  • the...the height that these new applications can soar is...is enabled or limited by the

  • platform software. And there's only been three systems that have

  • ever been successful in the whole history of desktop computing and that was the Apple

  • IIs platform software of which there wasn't too much. The IBM PC and Macintosh. So we're

  • attempting to create the fourth platform software standard and hopefully we'll succeed because

  • it will allow these applications to be written which far far exceed in capacity what can

  • be done in today's machines. What happens when you have a network that

  • allows the relative minorities in a whole different area come together. How does that

  • change the democracy? I don't know.

  • Okay. But...but what I have seen is I've seen interpersonal

  • computing happening at our own company. Or maybe the best way to put it is ahm, I remember

  • when the first spreadsheet came out. I saw it fly through Apple as well as other companies.

  • And when we ah, when we invented desktop publishing of course it influenced Apple first.

  • And I've seen the same thing happen with interpersonal computing here at NEXT. We decided to put

  • a NEXT machine on every employee's desktop about 18 months ago and connect them with

  • the very highspeed networking that's built in. And I've seen the revolution here with

  • my own eyes. And it's it's actually larger than the first two. Let me give you some examples.

  • Ah if we want to ah, if we're going to be doing a special project let's say with a company,

  • and we. and let's say the company is called ahm, what's your...

  • WGBH. WGBH. we're going to be doing a special project

  • with WGBH. And what we'll do is we'll create a ah special mailbox, WGBH and we'll put twenty

  • people on it that are going to be helping on this project. Now these twenty people will

  • be from all over our company. From marketing, from sales, from engineering, some from manufacturing.

  • Maybe some from our Boston office so they can be close by. And ah if one sends a message

  • to this mailbox, [SNAPS FINGER] they'll all get it like that, instantly.

  • And if ah one sends a reply they'll copy the whole mailbox so the rest of the team members

  • get to read ah the intellectual content going back and forth. And everyone on this, in this

  • mailbox will probably get around 30 mail messages a day. And they'll spend about twenty minutes,

  • thirty minutes reading these and answering these per day. And it will be like a beehive.

  • Now this project is very important for our company and I want to make sure it's getting

  • off right. So I'll put my own name on this mailbox and l'll see these thirty mail messages

  • fly by. All of the disagreements and the arguments and the thoughts and the decisions. And I

  • can just let it fly by and read it. I can do some background coaching with a few people

  • if I think they're a little off track. I can get right on the network and kibbutz if I'd

  • like. And after a month or so when I know that it's

  • going well I can take my name off. And so not only is this a way to organize violating

  • all management and geographic boundaries, it's also a way to manage. Where one can see.

  • Again the thoughts, disagreements and decisions of a company fly by a manager in a way that

  • they never could before. And ah we have seen it reduce the number of meetings we have at

  • least by fifty percent. we've seen it get far more managers and individual contributors

  • involved in decisions than there ever were before. We think the quality of the decisions

  • is a lot higher. And we've seen a window for management to look into the process of this

  • organism we call our company in a way that has never before been possible.

  • There was an article written by a guy by the name of . . . [END OF TAPE]

  • As we become part of this electronically community ahm that's going to provide us wonderful new

  • capabilities and ah communications abilities. But we still always want to be able to disconnect

  • that network spigot, take it off, and take our standalone computer somewhere, let's say

  • home. Now what's going to happen rapidly as with radio links and with fiber optics to

  • the home, you're going to be able to hook your computer up to your network at home.

  • Ah but there's always going to be that cabin in the middle of nowhere that I want to go

  • for a two week vacation where I want my computer. And if it doesn't work in a completely standalone

  • way, I'm I'm going to be no happy. So we have to provide a fluid way for these

  • things to kind of dock into the mother load network, but also undock and allow me as an

  • individual to carry my computer up into Yosemite backpacking. And where there's no radio links

  • and no fiber optic links and still be able to use it and then come back and dock back

  • into the network and find out what happened when I left and share some of my thoughts

  • maybe with some other folks. So we're working on that. That's our goal for the next five

  • years is that seamless transition between a standalone computer and the computer as

  • part of this network community. It also keeps away the welling aspects of

  • always being hooked into the network. That's right. I actually think what an interesting

  • paradox is the network which is ultimately going to define and create the home computer

  • market. Not keeping our recipes on these things or something like we thought in 1975. Ah being

  • a part of that network and not being able to stay away from it while you're home will

  • drive people to get computers in every house just like we have a telephone.

  • But computers then then won't be just computers. They'll be radios, and stereos, and TVs.

  • No I think, I think they'll be just computers. Just like your phone isn't your television

  • set. Just like your toaster isn't your radio. I think they'll be computers and they'll have

  • many of the capabilities of these other devices. Ahm multimedia, the ability to integrate sound

  • and video in with the computer is absolutely coming. But a lot of people have mistaken

  • it as the end rather than the means. Ah we see multi media as more of a means.

  • In other words, people aren't going to buy a computer for multi media. They're going

  • to buy it for training. Or they're going to buy it for interpersonal communication. And

  • in that communication, in addition to a text, they're going to want voice. They're going

  • to want, potentially I might want to send you a videoclip. But the real market is to

  • help us communicate better, or to help us train somebody. And ah we need to not lose

  • sight of that. I want to get your thoughts on the user interface

  • stuff. And I'd like to look at the transition ah Xerox to Apple. when did you hear, what

  • was the image of Xerox PARC and what was it like when you first went in there?

  • Ahm well Xerox PARC was a...a research lab set up by Xerox when they were making a lot

  • of profits in copier days. And ah they were doing some computer science research which

  • was basically an extension of some stuff started by a guy named Doug Engelbart when he was

  • at SRI. Doug had invented the mouse, and invented

  • the BIP map display. And some Xerox folks that...that Xerox ah I believe hired away

  • from Doug or split off from Doug somehow and got to Xerox, were continuing along in this

  • vain. And I first went over there in 1979 and I saw what they were doing with ah the

  • larger screens, ah proportionately spaced texts ah and the mouse. And it was just instantly

  • obvious to anyone that this was the way things should be. Ahm