Two video blasts from the past

August 15, 2012 at 11:45 am | Posted in waffle | Leave a comment

The ongoing patent dispute between Apple and Samsung grinds on in the US courts, and yesterday it called Roger Fidler as a witness. Cult of Mac blog unearthed a really interesting video from 1994 produced by the Knight-Ridder Information Design Lab, showing Fidler’s ideas in action. This technological think-tank was exploring the future of newspapers and essentially came up with something that looks and behaves exactly like a tablet:

They were not interested in building the technology (although the inclusion of a shot of the original Apple Newton handheld PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) clearly shows the direction of travel) but were instead concerned with the human-computer interface and ‘natural’ ways of interacting with the device. As Fidler says “We don’t want to have issue people manuals to read their newspaper”. The web was still in its infancy, but their vision of electronic newspapers includes hyperlinks to read more detail, embedded videos and animations, and click through adverts to the retailers’ sites with the opportunity to buy online. Perhaps most significantly it also inludes the ability to clip and store items of interest and to automatically collect relevant articles based on your personal profile.

The second video is one that I was involved in making back in 1992. It shows the first digital information guide produced by the University of Southampton, and covered the Library, Computing Services and Teaching Media. It was developed by Brian Sprunt (Teaching Media) and myself (Computing Services) using a Mac II, SuperCard software and video stored on a VideoDisc player. It was controlled via a touch-sensitive screen, which really shows how far ahead of the curve this was back then.

Users could access it via a single stand-alone system located in the Library’s main entrance hall. It was an interesting experiment, but doomed to failure; it was difficult and expensive to update and only available in one place. The following year (1993) the NCSA Mosiac web browser was released, and the rest (as they say) is history.

There is an interesting comparison of the VideoDisc video and the state-of-the-art computer video in the last 30 seconds… and now you’re could be watching this wirelessly over the Web on an iPad. That is what 20 years of progress looks like!


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