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History of Automation: Mark David Weiser Predicts IoT in 1988

Mark David Weiser, who died this week in 1999, was a visionary in the field of computer science. Weiser worked as the CTO of Xerox, and was embracing the future of IoT well before the internet was widely accessible. His vision of “ubiquitous computing” almost perfectly describes today’s Internet of Things. He described ubiquitous computing as a future in which personal computers would be be replaced with tiny computers embedded in “smart” devices (everyday items such as coffeepots and copy machines) and share network connections.

According to Weiser, “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.” This vision has become reality, though unfortunately Weiser did not live to see it. He died at only age 46, after a brief battle with cancer.

Weiser’s principles for ubiquitous computing are still valid today, and can offer a set of excellent guidelines in developing today’s systems:

  • The purpose of a computer is to help you do something else.
  • The best computer is a quiet, invisible servant.
  • The more you can do by intuition the smarter you are; the computer should extend your unconscious.
  • Technology should create calm.

Today, with software like InduSoft Web Studio, it’s easy to realize the ideals of ubiquitous computing. Smart embedded devices can share information with disparate systems using tools like InduSoft IoTView and InduSoft EmbeddedView to bridge the gap between interconnected systems.

(Source: Weiser, Mark (November 1, 1996). “Computer Science Challenges for the Next 10 Years”. YouTube. Rutgers University.)

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