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TECH TALK: Reinventing Computing: Five Goals

August 19th, 2004 · No Comments

There are five goals which a new solution set in computing needs to meet:

Solve the Six Challenges simultaneously: The six challenges of affordability, desirability, accessibility, manageability, security and ubiquity need to be addressed all at the same time. Many previous efforts have focuses on one or two of these challenges, and that is simply not good enough.

Make CommPuting as a Utility: The combination of a computer connected to the Internet needs to be available just like electricity, water or telephony as a utility. The goal should be to make computing and Internet access available for no more than a rupee an hour (about Rs 700 or $15 per month). This should include the computer itself, the software that goes with it and the basic applications that are needed, access to a useful library of content (for example, education and entertainment channels), broadband connectivity (at a minimum speed of 512 Kbps), along with 24×7 support.

Enable Human-centred Computing: The way users interact with computers needs to change. As Don Norman writes in his book The Invisible Computer: I dont want to use a computer. I want to accomplish something. I want to do something meaningful to me. Computing needs to put users at the centre, not the technology. This may seem like a tall order given that there has been little innovation in the human-computer interface over the past decade. But, as we look at new users, there is an opportunity to do things differently and build what Jef Raskin calls the humane environment.

Integrate with Cellphones: The two big additions to the world in the past few years have been the widespread deployment of cellphones (more than a billion users worldwide, and growing especially rapidly in the developing countries) and the concomitant spread of wireless networks both for voice and now, increasingly for data. Taken together, the cellphone is the personal device which is likely to be with us all the time. But, because it is both personal and portable, it is necessarily small. While not being a replacement for a computer, it can be an adjunct device think of it as a microcontent client. So, the world of computing and mobile communications need to converge to deliver information in real-time.

Construct the Memex: In a world awash with data and search engines able to point us to millions of pages on every topic, what is needed is the implementation of the vision of the Memex a memory extender put forth by Vannevar Bush in 1945. The Memex or its modern day equivalent, the Semantic Web would point us to the right sources of information, allow us to extend what others have written keeping our context in mind. This would make the Web infinitely more useful and personalised.

Tomorrow: Seven Revolutions


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