Notes for Bill Gates The Road Ahead
Key concepts: agent, ATM, capitalism, friction of distribution, hacker, information highway, ISDN, killer application, negative spiral, netiquette, positive spiral, softer software, symbolic mediator, universal service doctrine, von Neumann architecture.
Related theorists: Charles Babbage, Mark Bauerlein, Michel Callon, Howard Gardner, William Gibson, Steve Jobs, Jaron Lanier, Ted Nelson, John von Neumann, Tim Paterson, David Rushkoff, Claude Shannon, Adam Smith, Clay Spinuzzi, Nigel Thrift, Sherry Turkle.
Personal computer revolution Gates and Allen jumped into and fundamentally influenced will be followed by communications revolution, fundamentally shaped by the personal computer.
The past twenty years have been an incredible adventure for me. It
started on a day when, as a college sophomore, I stood in Harvard
Square with my friend Paul Allen and pored over the description of a
kit computer in Popular
As we read excitedly about the first truly personal computer, Paul
and I didn't know exactly how it would be used, but we were sure it
would change us and the world of computing.
(xi) We are all beginning another great journey. We aren't sure where this one will lead us either, but again I am certain this revolution will touch even more lives and take us all farther. The major changes coming will be in the way people communicate with each other.
(xi-xii) There is never a reliable map for unexplored territory, but we can learn important lessons form the creation and evolution of the $120-billion personal-computer industry. The PC—its evolving hardware, business applications, on-line systems, Internet connections, electronic mail, multimedia titles, authoring tools, and games—is the foundation for the next revolution.
Gates expresses surprise at misunderstandings about technology held by most people speculating about the information highway.
(xii) Thousands of informed and uninformed people are now speculating publicly about the information highway. The amount of misunderstanding about the technology and its possible pitfalls surprises me.
Social construction of technology acknowledged by one of its primary architects affirms Callon.
(xii) The revolution in communications is just beginning. It will take place over several decades, and will be driven by new “applications”--new tools, often meeting currently unforeseen needs. During the next few years, major decisions will have to be made by governments, companies, and individuals. These decisions will have an impact on the way the highway will roll out and how much benefit those deciding will realize. It is crucial that a broad set of people—not just technologists or those who happen to be in the computer industry—participate in the debate about how this technology should be shaped. If that can be done, the highway will serve the purposes users want. Then it will gain broad acceptance and become a reality.
Travel guide metaphor acknowledges little importance of opinions of everyday consumers beyond accepting the technologies that have been designed and marketed to them; recall sarcastic where does Microsoft want to drag you today inversion of trademarked corporate slogan.
(xii-xiii) I'm writing this book now as part of my contribution to
the debate and, although it's a tall order, I hope it can serve as a
travel guide for the forthcoming journey.
(xiii) I believe the course of the creation of the highway will mirror, in many ways, the history of the personal-computer industry.
(xiii) Anyone hoping for a technological treatise will be disappointed, too.
Gates discovered writing a book much like projecting the development schedule of a large software project by a small team, noting underestimation fallacy similar to programmers underestimating scaled complexity of a large project; concludes the Foreword with admission he had to retreat to his summer cabin to finish writing, a nice touch.
(xiii-xiv) The process of thinking about and writing The Road Ahead took longer than I expected. Indeed, estimating the time it would take proved to be as difficult as projecting the development schedule of a major software project. Even with able help from Peter Rinearson and Nathan Myhrvold, this book was a major undertaking. . . . The fallacy in my thinking was similar to the one software developers often run into—a project then times as long is about one hundred times more complicated to write. I should have known better. To complete the book, I had to take time off and isolate myself in my summer cabin with my PC.
A REVOLUTION BEGINS
As a child Gates enjoyed privilege of using computer terminal in late 1960s at behest of Mothers Club of his private school.
(1) Letting a bunch of teenagers loose on a computer was the idea of the Mothers' Club at Lakeside, the private school I attended. The mothers decided that the proceeds from a rummage sale should be used to install a terminal and buy computer time for students. Letting students use a computer in the late 1960s was a pretty amazing choice at the time in Seattle—and one I'll always be grateful for.
Computer terminal gave kids access to apparently fun adult activity offering control with feedback.
(2) We were too young to drive or to do any of the other fun-seeming adult activities, but we could give this big machine orders and it would always obey. Computers are great because when you're working with them you get immediate results that let you know if your program works.
Use of BASIC language to simulate Monopoly an early programming project; example of old media as content for new media.
(2) A friend at Lakeside developed a program in BASIC that simulated the play of Monopoly.
Appeal to childhood play extending uses of toys as essence of creativity, leading to sort of computer revolution as his generation matured.
(2) this impulse to make a toy do more
is at the heart of innovative childhood play. It is also the essence
(2-3) It seems there was a whole generation of us, all over the world, who dragged that favorite toy with us into adulthood. In doing so, we caused a kind of revolution—peaceful, mainly—and now the computer has taken up residence in our offices and homes.
Prediction of next revolution being computers joining to communicate with humans and other machines; interesting use of join and revolution.
(3) Now that computing is astoundingly
inexpensive and computers inhabit every part of our lives, we stand
at the brink of another revolution. This one will involve
unprecedentedly inexpensive communication; all the computers will
join together to communicate with us and for us.
(4) The reach and use of the the new network, its promise and its perils, is the subject of this book.
Recognizes his position as old guard but hopes to have learned from predecessors: does that include attempting to expand everywhere and monopolize markets?
(4) Today I'm much more in the position of the computer giants of the seventies, but I hope I've learned some lessons from them.
Gates suggests the new network computing environment will realize ideal Adam Smith invisible hand of market in new mediated way of life; contrast to Lanier critique of it as siren server oligopolies, and positions of Rushkoff and Bauerlein.
(4) I witnessed the importance of
compatibility in technology, of feedback, and of constant innovation.
And I think we may be about to witness the realization of Adam
Smith's ideal market, at last.
(5) It will be more than an object you carry or an appliance you purchase. It will be your passport into a new, mediated way of life.
Information tools as intellect amplifying symbolic mediators with family resemblance to books; contrast to Bauerlein argument that emphasis on viewer literacy diminishes traditional literacy.
(5) Informational tools are symbolic mediators that amplify the intellect rather than the muscle of their users. You're having a mediated experience as you read this book. We're not actually in the same room, but you are still able to find out what's on my mind. . . . The world today has more than 100 million computers whose purpose is to manipulate information.
New network is not a highway, more like country lanes in sense of individualized destinations, though ultimate market is better metaphor as distance is eliminated and everything is available for trade; per Lanier, bazaar of early Internet gives way to cathedrals of top siren server destinations.
(5) The term [information superhighway]
was popularized by then-senator Al Gore, whose father sponsored the
1956 Federal Aid Highway Act.
(5-6) The phrase suggests landscape and geography, a distance between points, and embodies the implication that you have to travel to get from one place to another. In fact, one of the most remarkable aspects of this new communications technology is that it will eliminate distance.
(6) The term “highway” also suggests that everyone is driving and following the same route. This network is more like a lot of country lanes where everyone can look at or do whatever his individual interests suggest. . . . A different metaphor that I think comes closer to describing a log of the activities that will take place is that of the ultimate market. . . . Digital information of all kinds, not just as money, will be the new medium of exchange in this market.
New network represents radical transformation of position and juxtaposition described by Thrift.
Gates a default philosopher of computing because he is intentionally directing the fruition of his vision towards ultimate market and new form of human communication.
Like the telephone and railroad, network will change as humans play with it and new use habits emerge.
(7) In short, just about everything
will be done differently I can hardly wait for this tomorrow, and I'm
doing what I can to help make it happen.
(7) A new generation grows up with them, changing and humanizing them. In short, playing with them.
(7) Eventually, though, men and women realized they were not just getting a new machine [with the telephone], they were learning a new kind of communication. . . . As I write, a newer form of communication—electronic mail—is undergoing the same sort of process: establishing its own rules and habits.
(8) What had once been the iron monster became the mighty bearer of life's best products. Again, the change in our perception was reflected in the language we used.
Philosophizes about change in fundamental knowledge by print to argue transformative potential of new network, even noting personal computers have not had a major impact on everyday life yet.
(8-9) The printed word changed all
that. It was the first mass medium—the first time that knowledge,
opinions, and experiences could be passed on in a portable, durable,
and available form. . . . Literacy became an important skill that
revolutionized education and altered social structures.
(9) The information highway will transform our culture as dramatically as Gutenberg's press did the Middle Ages.
(9) Personal computers have already altered work habits, but they haven't really changed our lives much yet. When tomorrow's powerful information machines are connected on the highway, people, machines, entertainment, and information services will all be accessible.
Wish fulfillment by network services emphasizes access, ignoring source of interests driving exploration.
(10) All of this information will be readily accessible and completely personal, because you'll be able to explore whatever parts of it interest you in whatever ways and for however long you want.
Assuages worldwide apprehension of the little people with the confident and optimistic outlook of a great man.
(10) Every day, all over the world,
people are asking about the implications of the network, often with
(11) I've thought about the difficulties and find that, on balance, I'm confident and optimistic. . . . I feel incredibly lucky that I am getting the chance to play a part in the beginning of an epochal change for a second time.
Gates and friends were inspired by childhood exposure to DEC PDP-8, developing belief that everyone would eventually be able to use computers.
(11-12) When I was in high school, it cost about $40 an hour to access a time-shared computer using a Teletype—for that $40 an hour you got a slice of the computer's precious attention. This seems odd today, when some people have more than one PC and think nothing of leaving them idle for most of the day. Actually, it was possible even then to own your own computer. If you could afford $18,000, Digital Equipment Corporation made the PDP-8. . . . Despite its limitations, the PDP-8 inspired us to indulge in the dream that one day millions of individuals could possess their own computers.
School schedulers likely early programming projects since kids were exposed to programming at school, as I was; recounts manipulating software to put himself in class of mostly girls.
(12) A bunch of us, including Paul Allen, got entry-level software programming jobs. For high school students the pay was extraordinary—about $5,000 each summer, part in cash and the rest in computer time. . . . One of the programs I wrote was the one that scheduled students in classes. I surreptitiously added a few instructions and found myself nearly the only guy in a class full of girls.
Discovery of Intel 8008 in electronics magazine reminder that computing did not emerge autochthnonously but rather in context of consumer and hobbyist electronics market; Gates and Allen developed a machine to analyze traffic monitor data.
(12) One summer day in 1972, when I was
sixteen and Paul was nineteen, he showed me a ten-paragraph article
buried on page 143 of Electronics
It was announcing that a young firm named Intel had released a
microprocessor chip called the 8008.
(14) Paul and I wondered what we could program the 8008 to do. He called up Intel to request a manual. We were a little surprised when they actually sent him one. . . . The 8008 just wasn't sophisticated enough, didn't have enough transistors.
(14) We did, however, figure out a way to use the little chip to power a machine that could analyze the information counted by traffic monitors on city streets.
Unforeseen potential of 8088 included need for software to explore new uses of cheap computing.
(14-15) In the spring of 1974,
announced Intel's new 8080 chip—ten times the power of the 8008
inside the Traf-O-Data machine. . . . It seemed obvious to us that if
a tiny chip could get so much more powerful, the end of big unwieldy
machines was coming.
(15) Not even the scientists at Intel saw its full potential.
(15) It seemed to us people would find all kinds of new uses for computing if it was cheap. Then, software would be the key to delivering the full potential of these machines.
(16) Part of the problem was that the Altair 8800 lacked software. It couldn't be programmed, which made it more a novelty than a tool.
(16) What the Altair did have was an Intel 8080 microprocessor chip as its brain. . . . The chance to get in on the first stages of the PC revolution seemed the opportunity of a lifetime, and I seized it.
Epic narrative of development of Microsoft BASIC including simulating 8088 chip on big machine at Harvard, long hours, and self funding.
(17) Undaunted, Paul studied a manual for the chip, then wrote a
program that made a big computer at Harvard mimic the little Altair.
This was like having a whole orchestra available and using it to play
a simple duet, but it worked.
(17) Some days I didn't eat or see anyone. But after five weeks, our BASIC was written—and the world's first microcomputer software company was born. In time we named it “Microsoft.”
(18) From the start, Paul and I funded everything ourselves. Each of us had saved some money. Paul had been well paid at Honeywell, and some of the money I had came from late-night poker games in the dorm.
Importance of original vision of very low cost computing; compare to original vision of Stallman and other default philosophers of computing.
(18) Of course, there is no simple answer, and luck played a role,
but I think the most important element was our original vision.
(18) We glimpsed what lay beyond that Intel 8088 chip, and then acted on it. We asked, “What if computing were nearly free?” . . . From the beginning we set off down a road that was headed in the right direction.
New network computing promise of almost free communication has ignited national imagination the way space program did.
(18-19) Now there is a new horizon, and the relevant question is,
“What if communicating were almost free?” The idea of
interconnecting all homes and offices to a high speed network has
ignited this nation's imagination as nothing has since the space
(19) I spend a good deal of time thinking about business because I enjoy my work so much. Today, a lot of my thoughts are about the highway.
Trickle down prosperity an underlying philosophical position of Gates.
(19) At Microsoft, we're working hard to figure out how to evolve from where we are today to the point where we can unleash the full potential of the new advances in technology. These are exciting times, not only for the companies involved but for everyone who will realize the benefits of this revolution.
THE BEGINNING OF THE INFORMATION AGE
Need to consider ways technology is changing how information is handled by humans and machines, launching brief, familiar historical narrative passing from ancient numerical manipulation through Babbage to Turing, Shannon, and von Neumann.
(21) To understand why information is going to be so central, it's
important to know how technology is changing the ways we handle
(22) The idea of using an instrument to manipulate numbers isn't new.
(22) As early as the 1830s, he [Babbage] was drawn to the idea that information could be manipulated by a machine if the information could be converted into numbers first.
Babbage conceived information processing in terms of cotton milling, adding essential notion of software to instruct how it was performed.
(22) He lacked the terms we now use to refer to the parts of his
machine. He called the central processor, or working guts of his
machine, the “mill.” He referred to his machine's memory as the
“store.” Babbage imagined information being transformed the way
cotton was—drawn from a store (warehouse) and milled into something
(22) It is a comprehensive set of rules a machine can be given to “instruct” it how to perform particular tasks.
(23) For the next century mathematicians worked with the ideas Babbage had outlined and finally, by the mid-1940s, an electronic computer was built based on the principles of his Analytical Engine. . . . Three major contributors were Alan Turing, Claude Shannon, and John von Neumann.
Credit to Shannon for implementing Boolean logic via electrical circuits, for which Gates gives a tutorial of binary numbers using different wattage light bulbs.
(23) In the late 1930s, when Claude Shannon was still a student, he demonstrated that a machine executing logical instructions could manipulate information. His insight, the subject of his master's thesis, was about how computer circuits—closed for true and open for false—could perform logical operations, using the number 1 to represent “true” and 0 to represent “false.”
Credit ENIAC and von Neumann for stored program computer architecture.
ENIAC was more like an electronic calculator than a computer, but
instead of representing a binary number with on and off settings on
wheels the way a mechanical calculator did, it used vacuum tube
(27) The “von Neumann architecture,” as it is known today, is based on principles he articulated in 1945—including the principle that a computer could avoid cabling changes by storing instructions in its memory.
(27) ENIAC weighed 30 tons and filled a large room. Inside, the computational pulses raced among 1,500 electromechanical relays and flowed through 17,000 vacuum tubes. Switching it on consumed 150,000 watts of energy. But ENIAC stored only the equivalent of about 80 characters of information.
(27) By the early 1960s, transistors had supplanted vacuum tubes in consumer electronics.
Data compression crucial to expanding computing capacity, but bandwidth limitations still hindering information highway; widespread fiber optic cable is the solution.
(31) The information highway will use compression, but there will still have to be a great deal of bandwidth. One of the main reasons we don't already have a working highway is that there isn't sufficient bandwidth in today's communication networks for all the new applications. And tehre won't be until fiber-optic cable is brought into enough neighborhoods.
Lesson in exponential doubling using fable of grains on chessboard, applied to microprocessor evolution; compare to Kurzweil.
(31-32) No experience in our everyday life prepares us for the
implications of a number that doubles a great number of
times—exponential improvements. One way to understand it is with a
(33) Exponential growth, even when explained, seems like a trick.
Predictions and prescriptions about improvements in memory, storage, and transmission of digital data that will bring about the highway; note prediction of single wire to household versus conjunction of multiple wired and wireless interfaces, contrast between stone age knife and Ghiberti doors as commerical orientation of contemporary Internet.
(34) we look toward an exotic improvement called a holographic
memory, which can hold terabytes of characters in less than a cubic
inch of volume.
(34) At some point not far in the future, a single wire running into each home will be able to deliver all of a household's digital data.
(34) But we can no more imagine what the information highway will carry in twenty-five years than a Stone Age man using a crude knife could have envisioned Ghiberti's Bapistery doors in Florence. Only when the highway arrives will all its possibilities be understood. However, the last twenty years of experience with digital breakthtroughs allow us to understand some of the key principles and possibilities for the future.
LESSONS FROM THE COMPUTER INDUSTRY
To avoid repeating mistakes companies must understand critical factors: negative and positive spirals, initiating rather than following trends, importance of software, role of compatibility.
Critical success factors for information highway given by Gates should be evaluated after 20 years.
(35) Companies investing in the highway will try to avoid repeating the mistakes made in the computer industry over the past twenty years. I think most of these mistakes can be understood by looking at a few critical factors. Among them are negative and positive spiral, the necessity of initiating rather than following trends, the importance of software as opposed to hardware, and the role of compatibility and the positive feedback it can generate.
Examples of Olsen and Wang as faltering visionaries at dawn of personal computer era.
(36) Throughout my youth the hot
computer firm was Digital Equipment, known as DEC. For twenty years
its positive spiral seemed unstoppable. Ken Olsen, the company's
founder, was a legendary hardware designer and hero of mine, a
(37) Two decades later, Olsen's vision faltered. He couldn't see the future of small desktop computers.
(37) Another visionary who faltered was An Wang.
(37) The kind of insight that had led him to abandon calculators could have led to success in personal computer software in the 1980s, but he failed to spot the next industry turn. Even though he developed great software, it was tied proprietarily to his word processors. . . . If Wang had recognized the importance of compatible software applications, there might not be a Microsoft today.
IBM failed to respond to market-driven compatibility with mainframe technology; Gates urges information highway creators to recall this lesson.
(37) IBM was another major company that
missed technological changes at the start of the PC revolution.
(38) Under the direction of young Tom, as Watson's son and successor was known, the company gambled $5 billion on the novel notion of scalable architecture—all the computers in the System/360 family, no matter what size, would respond to the same set of instructions.
(38) System/360 was a runaway success and made IBM the powerhouse in mainframe computers for the next thirty years.
(39) Market-driven compatibility is an important lesson for the future personal-computer industry. It should also be remembered by those creating the highway. Customers choose systems that give them a choice of hardware suppliers and the widest variety of software applications.
Narrative of Microsoft BASIC as crucial software ingredient for early personal computers when writing software was a primary activity of hobbyists; foregrounds piracy concerns and need for copyright protection.
(41) We provided BASIC for most of the
early personal computers. This was the crucial software ingredient at
that time, because users wrote their won applications in BASIC rather
than buying packaged applications.
(41) Microsoft's strategy was to get computer companies such as Radio Shack to buy licenses to include our software with the personal computers they sold (like the Radio Shack TRS-80, for example) and pay us a royalty. One reason we took that approach was software piracy.
Concern that Internet becomes pirate paradise; did not foresee floss as key component to its growth.
(41) Fortunately, today most users understand that software is protected by copyright. . . . We will have to be extremely careful to make sure the upcoming highway doesn't become a pirate's paradise.
Importance of stock options as incentive for building small businesses.
(43) Shared ownership through the stock options Microsoft offered most of its employees has been more significant and successful than anyone would have predicted. Literally billions of dollars of value have accrued to them. The practice of granting employee stock options, which has been widely and enthusiastically accepted, is one advantage the United States has that will allow it to support a disproportionate number of start-up successes, building on opportunities the forthcoming era will bring.
Low cost, high volume licensing key to success of Microsoft BASIC.
(44) Microsoft licensed the software at
extremely low prices It was our belief that money could be made
betting on volume. . . . We were very responsive to all the hardware
manufacturers' requests. We didn't want to give anyone a reason to
(44) Our strategy worked. Virtually every personal-computer manufacturer licensed a programming language from us.
(44) Along the way, Microsoft BASIC became an industry software standard.
Importance of de facto standards evolving in the marketplace through positive spirals; compare to scholarly histories of development of network protocols emphasizing more formal, collaborative processes.
(45) De facto standards often evolve in the marketplace through an economic mechanism very similar to the concept of the positive spiral that drives successful businesses, in which success reinforces success. This concept, called positive feedback, explains why de facto standards often emerge as people search for compatibility.
Videocassette recorder format battle as example of positive feedback emergence of de facto standard, and qualitative change in role a technology plays through quantitative change in acceptance level; compare to SCOT accounts.
(46) Perhaps the most famous industry
demonstration of the power of positive feedback was the
videocassette-recorder format battle of the late 1970s and early
(46) Once VHS emerged as the apparent standard, in about 1983, an acceptance threshold was crossed and the use of the machines, as measured by tape sales, turned abruptly upward.
(46) This is an example of how a quantitative change in the acceptance level of a new technology can lead to a qualitative change in the role the technology plays. Television is another.
Account of how IBM plan to bring PC to market rapidly steered development of 16 bit DOS by a third party developer.
Use of 16 bit microprocessor changed potential of personal computer from toy to business tool; reading Gates critically as a default philosopher of computing is just taking Latour and other SCOT theorists seriously.
(47) IBM wanted to bring its personal
computer to market in less than a year. In order to meet this
schedule it had to abandon its traditional course of doing all the
hardware and software itself.
(48) Working together with the IBM design team, we promoted a plan for IBM to build one of the first personal computers to use a 16-bit microprocessor chip, the 8088. The move from 8 to 16 bits would take personal computers from hobbyist toys to high-volume business tools.
Credit to Paterson as putative father of MS-DOS; as open design strategy, PC-DOS one of three OS choices available for IBM PC.
(48) IBM, with its reputation and its
decision to employ an open design that other companies could copy,
had a real chance to create a new, broad standard in personal
computing. We wanted to be a part of it. So we took on the operating
system challenge. We bought some early work from another Seattle
company and hired its top engineer, Tim Paterson. With lots of
modifications the system became the Microsoft Disk Operating System,
or MS-DOS. Tim became, in effect, the father of MS-DOS.
(48) Few remember this now, but the original IBM PC actually shipped with a choice of three operating systems—our PC-DOS, CP/M-86, and the UCSD Pascal P-system.
Microsoft leveraged licensing strategy that was not exclusive to IBM.
(49) Our goal was not to make money directly from IBM, but to profit from licensing MS-DOS to computer companies that wanted to offer machines more or less compatible with the IBM PC. IBM could use our software for free, but it did not have an exclusive license or control of future enhancements.
For PC users software became the center around which hardware was chosen.
(50) The IBM standard became the
platform everybody imitated. A lot of the reason was timing and its
use of a 16-bit processor.
(50-51) Within three years almost all the competing standards for personal computers disappeared. The only exceptions were Apple's Apple II and Macintosh. . . . Although buyers of a PC might not have articulated it this way, what they were looking for was the hardware that ran the most software, and they wanted the same system the people they knew and worked with had.
Gates takes credit for driving advance of graphical operating system to widen PC adoption with a simpler user interface, inspired by Xerox PARC; example of conscious technological change driven by a default philosopher of computing.
Shift in means of instructing computers by manipulating pictures rather than text must be considered in relation to side effect for humans, where Kemeny praised instructing the computer by programming.
(50-51) By 1983, I thought our next
step should be to develop a graphical operating system. . . . In
order to realize our vision, PCs had to be made easier to use—not
only to help existing customers, but also to attract new ones who
wouldn't take the time to learn to work with a complicated
(51) Researchers at Xerox's now-famous Palo Alto Research Center in California explored new paradigms for human-computer interaction. They showed that it was easier to instruct a computer if you could point at things on the screen and see pictures.
Microsoft collaborated with Steve Jobs on Word and Excel for Macintosh before Windows conceived.
(54) We worked closely with Apple
throughout the development of the Macintosh. Steve Jobs led
the Macintosh team. Working with him was really fun. Steve has an
amazing intuition for engineering and design as well as an ability to
motivate people that is world class.
(54) We crated a word processor, Microsoft Word, and a spreadsheet, Microsoft Excel, for the Macintosh. These were Microsoft's first graphical products.
Mistake by Apple to limit OS licensing to its own hardware being repeated by telephone and cable companies.
(54) Mistakes such as Apple's decision to limit the sale of its operating-system software for its own hardware will be repeated often in the years ahead. Some telephone and cable companies are already talking about communicating only with the software they control.
Gates views success of IBM in 1980s as evidence of success of market-driven, de facto standard generating capitalism.
(55) Throughout the 1980s, IBM was awesome by every measure capitalism knows. In 1984, it set the record for the most money ever made by any firm in a single year--$6.6 billion of profit.
Development of OS/2, OfficeVision, and PS/2 closely controlled by IBM corporate crusade to implement System Application Architecture strategy, in stark contrast to open PC standard; designed for mainframe customer and stymied by need for corporate consensus.
(57) This time it wasn't like when we
did MS-DOS. IBM wanted to control the standard to help its PC
hardware and mainframe businesses. IBM became directly involved in
the design and implementation of OS/2.
(57-58) OS/2 was central to IBM's corporate software plans. It was to be the first implementation of IBM's Systems Application Architecture, which the company ultimately intended to have as a common development environment across its full line of computers from mainframe to midrange to PC. . . . IBM's extensions of OS/2—called Extended Edition—included communication and database services. And it planned to build a full set of office applications—to be called OfficeVision—to work on top of Extended Edition. . . . The development of OfficeVision required another team of thousands. OS/2 was not just an operating system, it was part of a corporate crusade.
(58) IBM's previous software projects almost never caught on with PC customers precisely because they were designed with a mainframe customer in mind.
(58) IBM, with more than 300,00 employees, was also stymied by its commitment to company-wide consensus.
(59) In April 1987, IBM unveiled its integrated hardware/software, which was supposed to beat back imitators. The “clone-killer” hardware was called PS/2 and it ran the new operating system, OS/2.
(59) The PS/2's Microchannel was an elegant replacement for the connection bus in the PC AT. But it solved problems that most customers didn't have.
IBM lost hold on controlling PC hardware architecture through failed PS/2 Microchannel; Microsoft Windows at lower end of family strategy looked better than OS/2 at high end.
(60) Customers rejected Microchannel in
favor of machines with the old PC AT bus. . . . The real casualty was
that IBM lost control of personal-computer architecture. Never again
would they be able to move the industry singlehanded to a new
(60) Despite a great deal of promotion from both IBM and Microsoft, customers thought OS/2 was too unwieldy and complicated. The worse OS/2 looked, the better Windows seemed. . . . We call this the “family” strategy. In other words, OS/2 would be the high-end system and Windows would be the junior member of the family, for smaller machines.
Open Software Foundation promoting UNIX an attempt to standardize operating system for multiple architectures; failed to get positive feedback cycle going from committee of competing vendors the way floss later would from community of volunteers.
Definition of open by Gates as offering hardware and software applications choices in spite of history of monopolizing practices by his company.
(60) In the spring of 1988, it joined
other computer makers in establishing the Open Software Foundation to
promote UNIX, an operating system that had originally been developed
at AT&T's Bell Labs in 1969 but over the years had splintered
into a number of versions.
(61) The Open Software Foundation was the most promising of several attempts to “unify” UNIX and create a common software architecture that would work on various different manufacturers' hardware. In theory, a unified UNIX could get a positive-feedback cycle going. But despite significant funding, it turned out to be impossible for the Open Software Foundation to mandate cooperation from a committee of vendors who were competing for each sale.
(61-62) The problems of the Open Software Foundation and similar initiatives point up the difficulty of trying to impose a standard in a field in which innovation is moving rapidly and all the companies that make up the standards committee are competitors. . . . Although the term “open” is used in many different ways, to me it means offering choice in hardware and software applications to the customer.
Thousands of wasted years of effort trying to deliver next generation personal computing platform by IBM and Microsoft.
(62) Analysts estimate that IBM poured more than $2 billion into OS/2, OfficeVision, and related projects. If IBM and Microsoft had found a way to work together, thousands of people-years—the best years of some of the best employees at both companies—would not have been wasted. If OS/2 and Windows had been compatible, graphical computing would have become mainstream years sooner.
Hardware advances and end of life the change driver now; prediction of new major Windows versions every two to three years, with Internet and speech recognition major draws.
(63) Microsoft has to do its best to
make new versions so attractive in terms of price and features that
people will want to change. This is hard because a change involves a
big overhead for both developers and customers. Only a major advance
is able to convince enough users it is worth their while to change.
With enough innovation it can be done. I expect major new generations
of Windows to come along every two to three years.
(64) For instance, the Internet is becoming so important that Windows will only thrive if it is clearly the best way to gain access to the Internet. . . . When speech recognition becomes genuinely reliable, this will cause another big change in operating systems.
Microsoft tactic of hiring managers with experience in failing companies because they are forced to be creative.
(64) In recent years, Microsoft has deliberately hired a few managers with experience in failing companies. When you're failing you're forced to be creative, to dig deep and think, night and day.
APPLICATIONS AND APPLIANCES
Asynchronous communication forms offer increased variety and selection possibilities, bolstering assumption that information highway technology will make our lives easier and better; contrast to criticism by Bauerlein and others of resulting bad habits.
(66) Once you make
a form of communication asynchronous, you can also increase the
variety and selection possibilities.
(66) The highway will enable capabilities that seem magical when they are described, but represent technology at work to make our lives easier and better.
(67) The information highway will make it feel as though all the intermediary machinery between you and the object of your interest has been removed.
Lesson about PC killer applications from Lotus 1-2-3 to combination of services predicted of the information highway; note the ordering of offerings seems inverse of current prioritization on social networking, commerce and entertainment, with the personal search for knowledge minimized.
applications help technological advances change from curiosities into
(69) The first killer application for the original IBM PC was Lotus 1-2-3, a spreadsheet tailored to the strengths of that machine. The Apple Macintosh's killer business applications were Aldus PageMaker for designing documents to be printed, Microsoft Word for word processing, and Microsoft Excel for spreadsheets.
(69) The highway will come about because of a confluence of technological advances in both communications and computers. No single advance would be able to produce the necessary killer applications. But together these will. The highway will be indispensable because it will offer a combination of information, education services, entertainment, shopping, and person-to-person communication.
Viewing distance between television and computer monitor as media-specific characteristic; digital whiteboard more like television, notebooks and mobile devices more like PCs.
While correct that mobile phones will have screens and cameras and notebook computers will approach paper tablet proportions, failed prediction that digital whiteboards will replace blackboards should be considered in terms of Heim electric writing and Hayles MSA.
(71) However much like a PC the set-top
box becomes, there will continue to be a critical difference between
the way a PC is used and a television is used: viewing distance.
(72) One new form will be the digital white board: a large wall-mounted screen, perhaps an inch thick, that will take the place of today's blackboards and white boards. . . . These devices will show up first in conference rooms, then private offices and even homes.
(72) Today's telephone will connect to the same networks as the PCs and TVs. Many future phones will have small, flat screens and tiny cameras.
(73) Notebook computers will continue to get thinner until they are nearly the size of a tablet of paper.
Wallet PC as separate information appliance subsumed in mobile phone, in which case Apple wins with the iPhone.
(74) You'll be able to keep all these
and more in another information appliance we call the wallet PC.
(75) When wallet PCs are ubiquitous, we can eliminate the bottlenecks that now plague airport terminals, theaters, and other locations where people queue to show identification or a ticket.
(75) Wallet PCs with the proper equipment will be able to tell you exactly where you are anyplace on the face of Earth.
(76) In fact, I think of the wallet PC as the new Swiss Army knife.
Kiosks will provide information highway and wallet PC features to the masses.
(77) If you aren't carrying a wallet PC, you'll still have access to the highway by using kiosks—some free, some requiring payment of a fee—which will be found in office buildings, shopping malls, and airports in much the same spirit as drinking fountains, rest rooms, and pay phones.
Speech and handwriting recognition still Holy Grails despite admitted optimism by Gates that generic text recognition was more feasible.
(77-78) You won't necessarily have to
point to make your point. Eventually we'll also be able to speak to
our televisions, personal computers, or other information appliances.
At first we'll have to keep to a limited vocabulary, but eventually
our exchanges will become quite conversational. . . . It's much more
difficult for a computer to decipher an arbitrary sentence, but in
the next ten years this too will become possible.
(78) I was overly optimistic about how quickly we would be able to create software that would recognize the handwriting of a broad range of people. . . . It turned out that getting a computer to recognize handwriting is as difficult as getting one to recognize speech.
Examples of filters, spatial navigation and agents as new knowledge tools latent in information highway.
Account of virtual navigation through museum gallery reflects privileged, prior embodied experience; Bauerlein connects these features to tendency of dumbest generation to not look beyond its own self interests.
(80) You'll also be able to set up
“filters,” which are really just standing queries. Filters will
work around the clock, watching for new information that matches an
interest of yours, filtering out everything else.
(81) Spatial navigation, which is already being used in some software products, will let you go where the information is by enabling you to interact with a visual model of a real or make-believe world.
(82) Spatial navigation can also be used for touring. If you want to see reproductions of the artwork in a museum or gallery, you'll be able to “walk” through a visual representation, navigating among the works much as if you were physically there.
(83) The last type of navigational aid, and in many ways the most useful of all, is an agent. This is a filter that has taken on a personality and seems to show initiative.
Agents as softer software; relate to Thrift on changes senses of position and juxtaposition.
(84) Agents will know how to help you partly because the computer will remember your past activities. It will be able to find patterns of use that will help it work more effectively with you. . . . I call this “softer software.”
for agent to take over human functions like managing project
schedules, though current versions do not remember much or reason
well, and may become too annoying.
(84) The computer today is like a first day assistant. It needs explicit first-day instructions all the time.
(84-85) If an agent that could learn were available now, I would want it to take over certain functions for me. . . . If the built-in agent tries to be too smart and anticipates and confidently performs unrequested or undesired services, it will be annoying to users who are accustomed to having explicit control over their computers.
Social user interface provided by agents and softer software may be considered creepy attempts to humanize computer, but notes high degree of deference given to mechanical agents; relate Hayles on uncanny valley and Turkle on robotic moment.
(85) An agent that takes on a
personality provides a “social user interface.”
(85-86) Some people, hearing about software software and social interface, find the idea of a humanized computer creepy. . . . In programs such as Microsoft Bob, they have demonstrated that people will treat mechanical agents that have personalities with a surprising degree of deference. It has also been found that users' reactions differed depending on whether the agent's voice was female or male.
Types of navigation fairly clear, and predictions that while many emergent uses will be humorous and entertaining, others will be strictly practical and serious; does not predict much yet about emergence of side of highway opposite humans, Lanier siren servers.
(86) We have a fairly clear idea of
what sorts of navigation we'll have on the highway. It's less clear
what we'll be navigating through, but we can make some good guesses.
Many applications available on the highway will be purely for
(87) Other applications will be strictly practical.
(87) Still other applications will be completely serious.
PATHS TO THE HIGHWAY
Repeating competition that shaped PC industry creating software components of information highway, but emphasizing standards for interoperability of applications such as user profiles; contention between vendors and what network layer to utilize for such purposes.
(89-90) The same
sort of competition that took place within the PC industry during the
1980s is taking place now to create the software components that will
constitute the information highway platform.
(90) To make it possible for applications to work together seamlessly, the platform will have to define a standard for user profiles so that information about user preferences can be passed from one application to another.
Investors must believe new revenues comparable to cable television are possible.
(91) To finance the construction, investors will have to believe new services will generate almost as much revenue again as cable television does today.
Internet most important computing development since IBM PC.
(91) The popularity of the Internet is the most important single development in the world of computing since the IBM PC was introduced in 1981.
Web browsing software available for most machines for free, and will likely be bundled in future operating systems; the book itself is bundled with a browser on CDROM.
(95) The software to browse the Web is also available for all machines, generally for free. You can Web browse using the CD that comes with this book. In the future, operating systems will integrate Internet browsing.
Nod to TCP/IP and Web protocols actualizing predictions about interactive books and hyperlinks made by Ted Nelson, though current culture likely viewed as quaint by future users, noting lack of security and billing system.
The Internet's unique position arises from a number of elements. The
TCP/IP protocols that define the transport level support distributed
computing and scale incredibly well. The protocols that define Web
browsing are extremely simple and have allowed servers to handle
immense amounts of traffic reasonably well. Many of the predictions
about interactive books and hyperlinks—made decades ago by pioneers
like Ted Nelson—are
coming true on the Web.
(96) The current Internet lacks security and needs a billing system. Much of the Internet culture will seem as quaint to future users of the information highway as stories of wagon trains and pioneers on the Oregon Trail do to us today.
Internet has always been magnet for hackers, which Gates defines negatively.
(96) Because the Internet originated as a computer-science project rather than a communications utility, it has always been a magnet for hackers—programmers who turn their talents toward mischief or malice by breaking into the computer systems of others.
Gates fascinated by financial model allowing appearance of cheap access; pricing structure encourages use once connected since too complicated to track time and distance of individual use.
(97) The financial model that allows
the Internet to be so suspiciously cheap is actually one of its most
(98) The foundation of the Internet consists of a bunch of these leased lines connected by switching systems that route data.
(99) This works because the costs are based on paying for capacity, and the pricing has simply followed. It would require a lot of technology and effort for the carriers to keep track of time and distance. Why should they bother if they can make a profit without having to? This pricing structure means that once a customer has an Internet connection there is no extra cost for extensive use, which encourages usage.
Technical challenge of handling real time content like audio and video.
(99) One technical challenge still facing the Internet is how to handle “real time” content—specifically audio (including voice) and video.
Despite much free and user-generated content, believes most attractive information will be produced with profit in mind; thus development siren servers not predicted.
(100) Although a great deal of information, form NASA photos to bulletin board entries donated by users, will continue to be free, I believe the most attractive information, whether Hollywood movies or encyclopedic databases, will continue to be produced with profit in mind.
Microsoft promoting ISDN investment by phone companies as key to increasing bandwidth; try SCOT study of ISDN versus cable adoption for broadband services.
(101) ISDN was invented more than a decade ago, but without PC application demand almost no one needed it. It's amazing that phone companies invested enormous sums in switches to handle ISDN with very little idea of how it would be used. . . . We are among companies working to convince phone companies all over the world to lower these charges in order to encourage PC owners to connect, using ISDN.
ATM predicted to the communications protocol for routing packets.
(104-105) This routing of packets will be accomplished through the use of a communications protocol known as asynchronous transfer mode, or ATM (not to be confused with “automatic teller machine”). It will be one of the building blocks of the information highway.
Predicts security will thwart government surveillance, yet applications will be extremely easy to use; post-9/11 social and political impact has altered this apparently inevitable expansion of individual freedom.
(106) Soon any child old enough to use
a computer will be able to transmit encoded messages that no
government on earth will find easy to decipher. This is one of the
profound implications of the spread of fantastic computing
(107) Keep in mind that regardless of how complicated the system is technically, it will be extremely easy for you to use. You'll just tell your information appliance what you want it to do and it will seem to happen effortlessly.
Acknowledgement of need for competent security and authenticity verification introduces lesson on private/public key encryption protocols; mailbox analogy recalls Turkle concern about government surveillance during McCarthy era.
(108) The world will become quite
reliant on this network, so it is important that security be handled
competently. You can think of the information highway as a postal
network where everyone has a mailbox that is impervious to tampering
and has an unbreakable lock.
(109) Key encryption allows more than just privacy. It can also assure the authenticity of a document because a private key can be used to encode a message that only the public key can decode.
THE CONTENT REVOLUTION
Successful digital documents will offer new media specific features, redefining the term document itself as well as related terms like author, office, textbook.
(113) The first digital documents to
achieve widespread use will do so by offering new functionality
rather than simply duplicating the older medium.
(113) The exciting aspect of digital documentation is the redefinition of the document itself.
(113) This will cause dramatic repercussions. We will have to rethink not only what is meant by the term “document,” but also by “author,” “publisher,” “office,” “classroom,” and “textbook.”
(114) Some documents are so superior in digital form that the paper version is rarely used.
Linear ordering of paper documents with redundant references will remain for narrative fiction, counter to claims of electronic literature producers and their theorists like Hayles; artistic judgment that linearity intrinsic to storytelling.
(116) For as long as we've had paper
documents or collection of documents, we have been ordering
information linearly, with indexes, tables of contents, and cross
references of various kinds to provide alternate means of navigation.
. . . This redundancy was to make information easier to find.
(118) Among all the types of paper documents, narrative fiction is one of the few that will not benefit from electronic organization. . . . Likewise, we'll continue to watch most movies from start to finish. This isn't a technological judgment—it is an artistic one. Their linearity is intrinsic to the storytelling process.
Friction of production and distribution of paper documents reduces variety and leaves little profit for author; brief history of its reduction by development of printing press and Xerox copier tells texts and technology narrative.
(120) This doesn't mean that
information will be free, but the cost of distributing it will be
(120) By the time the consumer selects the book and the cash register rings, the profit for the author can be a pretty small piece of the pie compared to the money that goes to the physical aspect of delivering information on processed wood pulp. I like to call this the “friction” of distribution, because it holds back variety and dissipates money away from the author and to other people.
Printing press taught us to read by positive feedback after generating an installed base of readers, making print a useful means of storing information; compare to development of computer use and programming.
(120-121) The printing press created a
mass medium because it offered low-friction duplication. . . . Until
there was a real reason to create an “installed base” of literate
people, the written word wasn't really useful as a means for storing
information. Books gave literacy critical mass, so you can almost say
that the printing press taught us to read.
(121) The 914 copier, by making it possible to reproduce modest numbers of documents easily and inexpensively, set off an explosion in the kinds and amount of information distributed to small groups. . . . Most of these copies would never be made if the technology wasn't so cheap and easy.
(121) [Chester] Carlson was another who reduced the distribution friction of information.
Distribution friction of broadcast television and movies even higher than print media; lower costs of cable distribution led to channel expansion, but self publishing risks lowered by xerography and cable television incomparable to variety of Internet bulletin boards.
Bauerlein argues lowered friction of distribution by Internet has dampened tradition and allowed closed circuit of self-selected media consumption cycles dominated by low word count social messages.
(122) Costs are much high in broadcast
television or movies, so it's tougher to try something risky.
(122) Cable television increased the number of programming choices, although it wasn't started with that intention.
(123) The Internet is the greatest self-publishing vehicle ever. Its bulletin boards have demonstrated some of the changes that will occur when everyone has access to low-friction distribution and individuals can post messages, images, or software of their own creation.
(124) Mail or telephone communications are find for a one-on-one discussion, but they are also pretty expensive if you are trying to communicate with a group.
(125) Almost any topic you can name has a group communicating about it on the network.
Deploys same argument against software piracy for evolving great online content, calling for mechanisms for paying authors and publisher through advertisers and other new options, but per Lanier we got siren servers instead: a missed objective like Kemeny feared would happen with bungled programming instruction.
(125) Significant investments will be required to develop great on-line content that will delight and excite PC users and raise the number on-line from 10 percent up to 50 percent, or even the 90 percent I believe it will become. Part of the reason this sort of investment isn't happening today is that simple mechanisms for authors and publishers to charge their users or to be paid by advertisers are just being developed.
Revenue flow to information providers will birth a new mass medium; most critics see this as opportunity for everyone, success for very few.
(125-126) Over the next several years the evolution of on-line services will solve these problems and create an incentive for suppliers to furnish great material. There will be new billing options—monthly subscriptions, hourly rates, charges per item accessed, and advertising payments—so that more revenue flows to the information providers. Once that happens a successful new mass medium will come into existence. This might take several years and a new generation of network technology, such as ISDN and cable modems, but one way or another it will happen. When it does, it will open tremendous opportunities for authors, editors, directors—every creator of intellectual property.
Per McLuhan and Hayles, new medium will initially contain old media, as lessons from study of CDROM development recalls for application to online content: offering interactivity is new feature TV lacks being leveraged in games, though suspension of disbelief is fragile, as Ryan discusses with more nuance.
(126) Whenever a new medium is created,
the first content offered is brought over from other media.
(126) The development of CD-ROMs—multimedia versions of audio compact discs—provides some lessons that can be applied to the creation of on-line content.
(127) Multimedia CD-ROMs are popular today because they offer users interactivity rather than because they have imitated TV.
(127) The success of these games has encouraged authors to begin to create interactive novels and movies in which they introduce the characters and the general outline of the plot, then the reader/player makes decisions that change the outcome of the story. . . . The suspension of disbelief essential to the enjoyment of great fiction is fragile and may not hold up under the heavy-handed use of interactivity.
Too much effort still required for users to create multimedia content; predicts future PC developments will give amateurs same tools as professionals.
(128) The technologies underlying the CD-ROM and on-line services have improved dramatically, but very few computer users are creating multimedia documents yet. Too much effort is still required. . . . PC software for editing film and creating special effects will become as commonplace as desktop-publishing software. Then the difference between professionals and amateurs will be one of talent rather than access to tools.
Predicts simulation will overtake recording reality, pointing to virtual reality destinies fooling the senses, beginning with hearing and vision.
(129) It will be possible for a
software program to fabricate scenes that will look as real as
anything created with a camera. . . . And as synthesis gets cheaper
it will be used more and more: if we can bring Tyrannosaurus rex back
to life, can Elvis be far behind?
(130) As the fidelity of visual and audio elements improves, reality in all its aspects will be more closely simulated. This “virtual reality,” or VR, will allow us to “go” places and “do” things we never would be able to otherwise.
(131) The software will have to figure out how to describe the look, sound, and feel of the artificial world down to the smallest detail. That might sound overwhelmingly difficult, but actually it's the easy part. . . . The really hard part about VR is getting the information to convince the user's senses.
(131) Hearing is the easiest sense to fool; all you have to do is wear headphones.
(131) Your eyes are harder to fool than your ears, but vision is still pretty straightforward to simulate.
(132-133) The total amount of information a computer would have to calculate to pipe senses into the tactel suit is somewhere between one and ten times the amount required for the video display on a current PC.
Best descriptions of VR come from cyberpunk science fiction of Gibson, and history suggests big early market will be virtual sex, for which video porn has already proven the rule.
(133) The best descriptions of VR
actually come from so-called cyberpunk science fiction like that
written by William Gibson.
(133) If historical patterns are a guide, a big early market for advanced virtual-reality documents will be virtual sex.
Hopes for multimedia avant garde seem foiled by advance of mundane content and game realism; following Sterne, have online viewing adopted such lowered expectations?
(133-134) Will the next decade bring us the [D. W.] Griffiths and [Sergei] Eisensteins of multimedia? There is every reason to think they are already tinkering with the existing technology to see what it can do and what they can do with it.
IMPLICATIONS FOR BUSINESS
Obvious that software and networks will be nervous system of organizations and encourage decentralization, whereas impact on artistic output less clear; compare to Castells and Manovich.
(135-136) Software will become friendlier, and companies will base the nervous systems of their organizations on networks that reach every employee and beyond, into the world of suppliers, consultants, and customers. The result will be companies that are more effective and, often, smaller. In the longer run, as the information highway makes physical proximity to urban services less important, many businesses will decentralize and disperse their activities, and cities, like companies, may be downsized.
computers allow small businesses to operate like larger ones.
(137) We can only speculate on how an artist's output might be helped, but it is quite clear that personal computers improve business processes, efficiency, and accuracy.
(138) It's kind of amazing how many different tasks a small-business owner has to master. Someone runnign a small business can buy one PC and a few software packages, and she will have electronic support for all the different functions she is performning.
(138) PCs do away with the huge overhead large businesses incur staying coordinated through meetings, policies, and internal processes. Electronic mail has done more for big companies than for small companies.
Examples of spreadsheets, and predictions of high quality graphics three-dimensional graphics, speech recognition, and networking present benefits of PCs and the information highway reminiscent of Theuth of Phaedrus since Gates is planning to implement his visions.
(139) When the first electronic
spreadsheets appeared in 1978, they were a vast improvement over
paper and pencil. What they made possible was putting formulas behind
each element in a table of data. These formulas could refer to other
elements of the table. Any change in one value would immediately
affect the other cells.
(139) Increases in computer speed will soon allow PCs to display very high quality three-dimensional graphics. These will permit us to show data in a more effective way than today's two-dimensional presentations. Other advances will make it easy to explore databases by posing questions orally.
(141) Over the next few years, as speech recognition, social interfaces, and connections to the information highway are incorporated into core applications, I think individuals and companies will find the productivity enhancements these improved applications will bring extremely attractive.
(141) The greatest improvement in productivity, and the greatest change in work habits, will be brought about because of networking.
Email in use internally at Microsoft since early 1980s, but there are concerns of security and privacy over external networks.
(142) At Microsoft, because we're in
the technology business, we began using electronic communication
early. We installed our first e-mail system in the early 1980s.
(145) You can get a message to almost anyone who has a PC and a modem, although for certain communications privacy is a problem because transmissions across the Internet are not very secure.
Appeals to unforeseen uses of electronic mail like paying bills, scheduling meetings, and exchanging documents, although still difficult to ask questions and dispute charges asynchronously.
(145) Future advances in electronic
mail will streamline lots of activities we may not even realize are
inefficient. For example, think about how you pay bills.
(145) When a bill comes in, the device will show your payment history. If you want to inquire about the bill, you'll do it asynchronously—at your convenience—by sending e-mail: “Hey how come this charge is so high?”
(148) It will also be easier to schedule meetings because software wil handle it.
(148) Clients will expect their lawyers, dentists, accountants, and other professionals to be able to schedule appointments and exchange documents electronically.
Videoconferencing and synchronous sharing have not matured as quickly as predicted, although we are accustomed to watching video meetings; assumes people more attentive if they know they are on camera, side communications will be easier, and unwritten rules will be forced to be made more explicit with network mediation.
(149) The meetings they schedule will
more and more often be conducted electronically, using shared-screen
videoconferencing. . . . Geographically distant collaborators will be
able to work together in rich ways. This is synchronous or real-time
sharing, which means that the computer screens will keep up with the
people using them.
(149) We're already accustomed to watching video meetings.
(149-150) Such meetings will become very popular because they save time and money and are often more productive than audio-only phone conferences or even fact-to-face meetings, because people seem to be more attentive if they know they are on-camera.
(150-151) How will people whisper, roll their eyes at a tedious speaker, or pass notes? Actually, clandestine communication will be simpler at a video meeting because the network will facilitate individual communications on the side. Meetings have always had unwritten rules, but when the network is mediating videoconferences, some rules will have to become explicit.
Realistic synthetic images.
(151) As computers become more powerful, it will be possible for a standard PC to fabricate realistic synthetic images.
Future jobs will specify in office and out of office hours, and use of part time labor by customer service organizations will expand; cell phone and Internet use at work loosens boundaries inside the office.
(152) A decade form now, advertisements
for many jobs will list how many hours a week of work are expected
and how many of those hours, if any, are “inside” hours at a
designated location such as an office. Some jobs will require that
the employee already have a PC so he can work at home.
Customer-service organizations will be able to use part-time labor
(152) An employee in an office is assumed to be working the whole time, but the same employee working at home might be credited (perhaps at a different rate) only for the time he or she is actually performing work.
Reengineering boundaries inside workplace, next between suppliers and customers, as Castells, Spinuzzi, Boltanski and Chiapello studied.
(153) A single office or cubicle could
serve several people whose inside hours were staggered or irregular.
. . . Wherever a worker logged on, his or her familiar office
surroundings could follow, courtesy of digital white boards and the
(153) To date, most reengineering has focused on moving information inside the company in new ways. The next movement will be to redefine the boundary between the company and its customers and suppliers.
(153) E-mail is a powerful force for flattening the hierarchies common to large companies. If communications systems are good enough, companies don't need as many levels of management.
(154) As technology makes it easier for a business to find and collaborate with outside expertise, a huge and competitive market for consultants will arise.
(154) Lots of companies will eventually be far smaller because using the information highway will make it easy to find and work with outside resources.
Allow escape for the privileged from social problems of crowded urban areas; despite predicted savings, positive feedback cycle encouraging rural living may not scale, and would affect urban tax base, aggravating woes.
(155) Geographic dispersion will affect
much more than corporate structure. Many of today's major social
problems have arisen because the population has been crowded into
(155) For those who have a connection ot it, the highway will substantially reduce the drawbacks of living outside a big city.
(155) This could set off a positive-feedback cycle, encouraging rural living.
(156) If the average office worker in any major city stayed home one or two days a week, the decreases in gasoline consumption, air pollution, and traffic congestion would be significant. The net effect, however, is hard to foresee. If those who moved out of cities were mostly the affluent knowledge workers, the urban tax base would be reduced. This would aggravate the inner city's woes and encourage other affluent people to leave. But at the same time, the urban infrastructure might be less heavily loaded. Rents would fall, creating opportunities for a better standard of living for some of those remaining in the cities.
Predictions by Gates about transformations faster PCs and information highway may bring are literally queuing up the projective city of the new spirit of capitalism articulated by Boltanski and Chiapello, which becomes topic of next chapter; his advice is to become informed, sidestepping issue of participatory involvement or outright rebellion.
(156) My advice is to try to find out as much as possible about the technology that will touch you. The more you know about it, the less disconcerting it will seem. Technology's role is to provide more flexibility and efficiency. Forward-looking business managers will have lots of opportunities to perform better in the years ahead.
Ideal markets realized by electronic information exchange, expected that the network will function as impartial middleman creating a heaven for shoppers; contrast to Lanier assessment that the systems have been designed to advantage siren servers.
(157-158) A few
markets are already working fairly close to Smith's ideal. Investors
buying and selling currency and certain other commodities participate
in efficient electronic markets that provide nearly complete
instantaneous information about worldwide supply, demand, and prices.
Everyone gets pretty much the same deal because news about all
offers, bids, and transactions speeds across wires to trading desks
(158) The information highway will extend the electronic marketplace and make it the ultimate go-between, the universal middleman. . . . This will carry us into a new world of low-friction, low-overhead capitalism, in which market information will be plentiful and transaction costs low. It will be a shopper's heaven.
(160) You'll be able to examine product reviews in search of less biased information.
(160) If you're thinking of doing business with a company or buying a product, you'll be able to check what others say about it.
Alludes to cultural segmentation and standardization through evolving netiquette, though still frontier mentality in 1995; need more sophisticated regulation mechanisms.
(161) Already, a network etiquette, or
“netiquette,” is evolving. As the information highway
becomes society's town square, we will come to expect it to conform
to our culture's mores. There are vast cultural differences around
the world, so the highway will be divided into different parts, some
dedicated to various cultures, and some specified for global usage.
So far, a frontier mentality has prevailed, and participants in
electronic forums have been known to lapse into behavior that is
antisocial and even illegal.
(162) We need a more sophisticated process to gather consensus opinions without depending on the Attorney General's Consumer Complaints Division to act as a filter. We will have to find some way to force people to turn their volume down so the highway doesn't become an amplifier for libel or slander or an outlet for venting irritation.
(162) Politicians are already wrestling with the question of when an on-line service should be treated as a common carrier and when it should be treated as a publisher.
Predicts need for sales consultants as binding between advice and sales diminishes.
(164) If you can't find exactly the
advice you need on the highway, you will be able to hire a
knowledgeable sales consultant, for five minutes or an afternoon, via
videoconference. She will help you choose products, which your
computer will then buy for you from the cheapest reliable
(164) I expect the traditional binding together of advice and sales to be much less prevalent, because although the advice appears free to the customer, it is paid for by the stores and services that offer it. This cost then gets added on to the price of the goods. Stores that are charging more because they offer advice will have increasing difficulty competing with the discounters who will operate on the information highway.
Comfort with expert systems and software agents will lead to Turkle robotic moment; the experience of interacting with expert systems consummates the same dream of living writing from antiquity.
Gates sees no problem with not caring whether interaction with other people or simulations as long as desires are fulfilled.
(164-165) Over time, more advice will be offered by software applications that have been programmed to analyze your requirements and make appropriate suggestions. . . . As software agents become common, and voice-simulation-and-recognition software improves, it will begin to feel as though you're talking to a real person when you consult a multimedia document with a personality. You'll be able to interrupt, request more detail, or ask to have an explanation repeated. The experience will be like chatting with a personable expert. Eventually it won't matter much whether you are talking to a human being or a very good simulation, as long as you get the answers you need to make an appropriate purchase.
Product placement and unobtrusively buying opportunities; compare to recently announced Amazon phone.
(165) In the future, companies may pay not only to have their products on-screen, but also to make them available for you to buy. You will have the option of inquiring about any image you see. This will be another choice the highway will make available unobtrusively.
Manufacturing will embrace just in time customization and delivery will be big business.
(166) Customization will become an
important way for a manufacturer to add value.
(167) Delivering goods ordered over the highway will become a big business. There will be amazing competition, and as volume becomes enormous, delivery will get very inexpensive and fast.
Newsletter style customized information before the blogging craze.
(167) Customized information is a natural extension of the tailored consultation capabilities of the highway. Individuals who have achieved eminence in some field may publish their opinions, recommendations, or even worldview, in much the same way that successful investors publish newsletters.
that individuals have access to their profile information, and access
by third parties are regulated: exactly what we do not have under
siren server oligopolies.
(169) Needless to say, there will be lots of controversy and negotiation about who can get access to your profile information. It will be crucial that you have such access.
Overly optimistic about email filtering; incentives to look at advertising as response to automated message filtering.
(173) You won't be drowned by the deluge of unimportant information because you'll use software to filter incoming advertising and other extraneous messages and spend your valuable time looking at those messages that interest you. Most people will block e-mail ads except for those about product areas of particular concern. One way for the advertiser to capture your attention will be to offer a small amount of money—a nickel or a dollar, perhaps—if you will look at an ad.
Innovations in licensing intellectual property and releasing content.
(175) The information highway will
enable innovations in the way that intellectual property, such as
music and software, is licensed.
(175) This personal, lifetime buyout of rights is similar to what we do today when we buy a music disc or tape, or book, except that there is no physical medium involved.
(177) On the information highway various release windows for content will almost certainly be tried.
(177-178) The transferability of information will be another big pricing issue. . . . If the average buyer lent his or her albums and books frequently, fewer would be sold and prices would be higher.
Roles of middlemen and physical travel for meetings will erode.
(178) Efficient electronic markets area
going to change a lot more than just the ratio of renting to buying
for entertainment. Almost any person or business that serves as a
middleman will feel the heat of electronic competition.
(179) Videoconferences of all sorts will increasingly become alternatives to having to drive or fly to a meeting.
Direct consumer access to financial markets will increase volume of transactions; asserts Microsoft will not become a bank or store.
(181) Financial services companies will
still thrive. The basic economics of the industry will change, but
the volume of transactions will skyrocket as the information highway
gives the average consumer direct access to financial markets.
(182) When I prognosticate about the future changes in an industry, people often wonder if Microsoft plans to go into that field. Microsoft's competence is in building great software products and the information services that go with them. We will not become a bank or a store.
Optimistic employment outlook based on tasks undone and new tasks engendered by the information highway, but not considering transformation and effects of the spirit of capitalism.
(182-183) There is a nearly infinite number of tasks left undone in services, education, and urban affairs, to say nothing of the workforce the highway itself will require. So this new efficiency will create all softs of exciting employment opportunities.
Victorious capitalism is the best constructed economic system, and the information highway will magnify its advantages: Adam Smith would be pleased, and consumers will enjoy the benefits.
(183) Capitalism, demonstrably the greatest of the constructed economic systems, has in the past decade clearly proved its advantages over the alternative systems. The information highway will magnify those advantages. It will allow those who produce goods to see, a lot more efficiently than ever before, what buyers want, and will allow potential consumers to buy those goods more efficiently. Adam Smith would be pleased. More important, consumers everywhere will enjoy the benefits.
EDUCATION: THE BEST INVESTMENT
Privileged experience offers examples of education humanizing education.
(184) Some fear that technology will dehumanize formal education. But anyone who has seen kids working together around a computer, the way my friends and I first did in 1968, or watched exchanges between students in classrooms separated by oceans, knows that technology can humanize the educational environment.
Gardner argues for multiple methods to accommodate every kind of learner: contrast to Bauerlein assessment of failure of technologically enhanced classrooms to yield improvements.
(185) [Howard] Gardner recommends that schools be “filled with apprenticeships, projects, and technologies” so that every kind of learner can be accommodated. We will discover all sorts of different approaches to teaching because the highway's tools will make it easy to try various methods and to measure their effectiveness.
Mass customized curriculum, or new models of technology assisted standardized curriculum?
(185) Multimedia documents and easy-to-use authoring tools will enable teachers to “mass-customize” a curriculum.
Gates believes availability of information will spark curiosity, whereas Bauerlein argues that unguided and uninformed by tradition, children are lured into limited peer interests.
(185) I believe that just the availability of information will spark the curiosity and imagination of many. Education will become a very individual matter.
Emphatic that technology will not replace roles of teachers, administrators, parents, or students; contrast to arguments about effects of new spirit of capitalism and formation of projective city.
(185) There is an often-expressed fear that technology will replace teachers. I can say emphatically and unequivocally, IT WON'T. The information highway won't replace or devalue any of the human educational talent needed for the challenges ahead: committed teachers, creative administrators, involved parents, and, of course, diligent students.
Assumed procedural enthymeme that using the Internet will encourage children to discover and exploit their native talents regardless of social and familial environment.
(185-186) In time, this access will
help spread educational and personal opportunities even to students
who aren't fortunate enough to enjoy the best schools or the greatest
family support. It will encourage a child to make the most of his or
her native talents.
(187) Classroom learning will include multimedia presentations, and homework will involve exploring electronic documents as much as textbooks, perhaps even more. Students will be encouraged to pursue areas of particular interest, and it will be easy for them to do so. Each pupil will be able to have his own question answered simultaneously with the other students' queries. A class will spend part of a day at a personal computer exploring information individually or in groups.
Positive feedback effect on education by increasing education workforce, sharing materials, and rewarding best practices.
(187) As innovation has improved the
standard of living, there has always been an increase in the portion
of the workforce dedicated to education.
(188) The network will enable teachers to share lessons and materials, so that the best educational practices can spread.
(189) Corporations wanting to help with education could provide recognition and cash awards to teachers whose materials are making a difference.
Educational software systems will keep better records to reveal individual needs, and teachers will have more time and energy to meet those needs once relieved of tedious paperwork.
(190) Teachers will be able to keep a
cumulative record of a student's work, which can be reviewed at any
time or shared with other instructors.
(190) Special software programs will help summarize information on the skills, progress, interests, and expectations of students. Once teachers have enough information on a student and are relieved of a lot of tedious paperwork, they will have more energy and time to meet the revealed individual needs of that student.
Parents can help kids by teaching them the software they use at work, a great marketing strategy for Microsoft.
(191) Parents may also help their children at school by teaching them to use the software they use in their work.
Despite prior emphatic denial, social interfaces will become substitutes for search, dialogue, and coaching; compare to primers in Stephenson Diamond Age.
(195) Computers with social interfaces
will figure out how to present information so that it is customized
for the particular user. Many educational software programs will have
distinct personalities, and the student and the computer will get to
know each other. . . . The machine, like a good human teacher, won't
give in to a child who has lopsided interests. Instead it will use
the child's predilections to teach a broader curriculum.
(195) Children with learning disabilities will be particularly well served.
Believes attitude toward tests will change through self-quizzing, for those students who care to do so.
(195) Another benefit of computer aided
learning will be the way many students come to view tests.
(196) The interactive network will allow students to quiz themselves anytime, in a risk-free environment. . . . There should be less apprehension about formal tests and fewer surprises, because ongoing self-quizzing will give each student a better sense of where he or she stands.
Prelude to gamefication.
(197) It's easier to create an
addictive game than it is to expose a child to a world of information
in an appealing way.
(197) However, as textbook budgets and parental spending shift to interactive material, there will be thousands of new software companies working with teachers to create entertainment-quality interactive learning materials.
Fundamental social problems need fixed; misses ignorance of tradition, decline in literacy, and indulgence that Bauerlein highlights.
(197) All this information, however, is
not going to solve the serious problems facing many public schools
today: budget cuts, violence, drugs, high dropout rates, dangerous
neighborhoods, teachers more concerned about survival than education.
Offering new technology won't suffice. Society will also have to fix
the fundamental problems.
(198) It's always taken an intense local effort.
Choice among materials and types of schooling.
(198) The highway will allow new
methods of teaching and much more choice.
Quality curriculums can be created with government funding and made
available for free. Private vendors will compete to enhance the free
material. The new vendors might be other public schools;
public-school teachers or retired teachers going into business for
themselves; or some privately run, highway-based school service
programing wanting to prove its capabilities.
(198) The highway will also make home schooling easier.
Learning with computer springboard for learning away from computer promotes role of teacher as coach.
(198) Learning with a computer will be a springboard for learning
away from the computer.
(198) Successful teachers will act as coaches, partners, creative outlets, and communications bridges to the world.
Use of simulations and models combines gamefication with education particularly well with science topics; eventually VR rooms.
The teaching of science lends itself particularly well to using
models. . . . SimLife,
a popular software program, simulates evolution, so kids get to
experience the process instead of just getting facts about it. . . .
Maxis Software, the publisher of SimLife,
also produces another program, SimCity,
which lets you design a city with all of its interrelated systems,
such as roads and public transportation.
(199) When science is made more interesting in these ways, it should appeal to a broader set of students.
(200) I'm sure that at some point schools will have virtual-reality equipment—or maybe even VR rooms, the way some now have music rooms and theaters—to allow students to explore a place, an object, or a subject in this engrossing, interactive way.
Asserts technology will not isolate students by giving examples of successes in collaborative learning, email, learning circles, ignoring majority experience that Bauerlein and Turkle highlight of forms of collaboration that are at best being alone together; he makes the assumption that what happens in most creative classrooms using technology foreshadows eventual norms.
(200) Technology will not, however, isolate students. One of the most
important education experiences is collaboration. In some of the
world's most creative classrooms, computers and communications
networks are already beginning to change the conventional
relationships among students themselves, and between students and
teachers, by facilitating collaborative learning.
(201) College students everywhere already understand the joys of e-mail, both for educational purposes and to keep in touch inexpensively with family and friends, including high school friends who have gone to other universities.
(202) Many classrooms, in different states and countries, are already linking up in what are sometimes called “learning circles.”
Opportunities for unofficial students to seek lifelong learning, altering focus of education from institution to individual, as described by Boltanski and Chiapello of the projective city.
(203) The highway's educational possibilities will also be open to
the world's unofficial students. People anywhere will be able to take
the best courses taught by great teachers. The highway will make
adult education, including job training and career-enhancement
courses, more readily available.
(204) Whatever problems direct access to unlimited information may cause, the benefits it will bring will more than compensate. I enjoyed school but I pursued by strongest interests outside the classroom. I can only imagine how access to this much information would have changed my own school experience. The highway will alter the focus of education from the institution to the individual. The ultimate goal will be changed from getting a diploma to enjoying lifelong learning.
PLUGGED IN AT HOME
Fear that the information highway will turn homes into cozy entertainment providers prelude to Turkle alone together, although Gates wants to argue the contrary.
(205) One of the many fears expressed about the information highway is that it will reduce the time people spend socializing. Some worry that homes will become such cozy entertainment providers that we'll never leave them, and that, safe in our private sanctuaries, we'll become isolated. I don't think that's going to happen, and later in this chapter, when I describe the house I'm building, I think I make my case.
True the geographically distant people can communicate with more ease, for example virtual dating practiced by Gates and online games; does not consider lowered expectations when in person that Turkle and Rushkoff call being alone together.
(206) The new communications capabilities will make it far easier
than it is today to stay in touch with friends and relatives who are
geographically distant. . . . In the future this sort of “virtual
dating” will be better because the movie watching could be combined
with a videoconference.
(207) Friendships formed across the network will lead naturally to getting together in person.
(207) The new DSVD modems I discussed earlier will let you use a normal phone line to carry on a voice conversation with the other players while watching the play unfold on your computer screen.
Example of Warren Buffet warming to the highway to play bridge is definitely an outlier.
(207-208) He [Buffet] wasn't interested until he found out he could play bridge with friends all over the country through an on-line service. . . . Despite the fact that he had studiously stayed away from technoogy and technology investing, once he tried the computer, he was hooked.
about explosion in online gaming, interactive television game shows,
gambling, interest communities no matter how specific.
(208) I think on-line computer-game playing will catch on in a big way.
(208) TV game shows will evolve to a new level when viewer feedback is added.
(208) Gambling is going to be another way to play on the highway.
(210) On the information highway there will be applications to help you find people and information that intersect with your interests, no matter how specific.
(211) You won't be overwhelmed by the
number of choices of communities any more than you are now by the
telephone system. You'll look for a group that interests you in
general, and then you'll search through it for the small segment you
want to join. I can imagine the administration of every municipality,
for example, becoming the focus of an electronic community.
(211) As on-line communities grow in importance, they will increasingly be where people will turn to find out what the public is really thinking.
Concerns about access to more information than overseers desire.
(212) It's not just medical researchers who will be affected by so much access to information. One of the biggest concerns is parents having to contend with children who can find out about almost anything they want to, right from a home information appliance.
Belief that more choices come with more information, and less face-to-face visits do not isolate us; believes we will have better control over access to our attention by others by explicitly indicating allowable interruptions.
(212-213) On balance, the advantages
will greatly outweigh the problems. The more information there is
available, the more choices we will have. . . . We may visit
face-to-face less often than we did a century ago because we can pick
up the telephone, but this doesn't mean we have become
(213) In the future, when you will be able to work anywhere, reach anyone from anywhere, and be reached anywhere, you will be able to determine easily who and what can intrude. By explicitly indicating allowable interruptions, you will be able to reestablish your home—or anywhere you choose—as your sanctuary.
Lots of overhead implicit in regulating interruptions that have not come to fruition yet, habituating us to being always on instead, per Rushkoff.
(213) Incoming communications will be tagged by source and type—for instance, ads, greetings, inquiries, publications, work-related documents, or bills. You'll set explicit delivery policies. You'll decide who can make your phone ring during dinner, who can reach you in your car, or when you're on vacation, and which kinds of calls or messages are worth waking you for in the middle of the night.
Changes to architecture later studied by Kitchin and Dodge theorized and tested with the extravagant house Gates is building.
(214) The changes in technology will
start to influence architecture. As the ways in which homes are used
change, the buildings will evolve. . . . A lot of space-consuming
clutter will collapse into digital information that can be recalled
(214) My house is being designed and constructed so that it's a bit ahead of its time, but perhaps it suggests things about the future of homes.
(215) The cutting-edge technology in the house I'm building won't just be for previewing entertainment applications. It will also help meet the usual domestic needs: for heat, light, comfort, convenience, pleasure, and security.
Electronic pin will allow house computers to track movement of occupants; array of monitors foreshadows Manovich big data displays.
(217) First thing, as you come in,
you'll be presented with an electronic pin to clip to your clothes.
This pin will connect you to the electronic services of the
(218) Recessed into the east wall will be twenty-four video monitors, each with a 40-inch picture tube, stacked four high and six across. These monitors will work cooperatively to display large images for artistic, entertainment, or business purposes.
(218) The electronic pin you wear will tell the house who and where you are, and the house will use this information to try to meet and even anticipate your needs—all as unobtrusively as possible. Someday, instead of needing the pin, it might be possible to have a camera system with visual recognition capabilities, but that's beyond current technology.
(219) You won't be confronted by the technology, but it wil be readily and easily available. Handheld remote controls will put you in charge of your immediate environment and of the house's entertainment system. The remote will extend the capabilities of your pin.
(219) A console, which will be the equivalent of a keyboard that lets you give very specific instructions will be discreetly visible in each room.
(220) Every computerized system should be made so simple and natural to use that people don't give it a second thought. But simple is difficult. Still, computers get easier to use every year, and trial-and-error in my house will help us learn how to create a really simple system.
Combining traditions of unobtrusive service and treatment based on possession of symbolic objects.
(221) A house that tracks its occupants in order to meet their particular needs combines two traditions. The first is the tradition of unobtrusive service, and the other is that an object we carry entitles us to be treated in a certain way.
Gates does not expect robots in widespread consumer use beyond intelligent toys; evident that his philosophy of robotics assumes computationally intensive representational processing, contra later Clark and Chalmers.
(221-222) I am certainly not preparing for that, because I think it will be many decades before robots are practical. The only ones I expect to see in widespread use soon are intelligent toys. . . . The reason I doubt intelligent robots will provide much help in actual housework in the foreseeable future is that it takes a great deal of visual intelligence and dexterity to prepare food or change diapers.
Instrumentation in Gates house that tracks and remembers user preferences, and tallies all sorts of things, will become substrate of information highway.
(222) This sort of instrumentation can
provide significant energy savings. . . . Energy-demand management
can save a lot of money and help the environment by reducing peak
(223) A house that tries to guess what you want has to be right often enough that you don't get annoyed by miscalculations.
(223) In fact, the house will remember everything it learns about your preferences.
(223) When we are all on the information highway, the same sort of instrumentation will be used to count and keep track of all sorts of things, and the tallies will be published for anyone who cares to pay attention.
(224) Counts of crime reports, campaign contributions by area, and almost any other kind of public or potentially public information will be ours for the asking.
Gates company Corbis building archive of digital images; believes easy access to reproductions will not reduce interest in experiencing real works, but misses convergence of interest on mundane images popular on social media networks that Bauerlein decries.
(224) A few years ago I started a small
company, now called Corbis, in order to build a unique and
comprehensive digital archive of images of all types.
(225) I believe quality images will be in great demand on the highway.
(225) Although some of the images will be of artworks, that doesn't mean I believe that reproductions are as good as the originals. There's nothing like seeing the real work. I believe that easy-to-browse image databases will get more people interested in both graphic and photographic art.
(226) Exposure to the reproductions is likely to increase rather than diminish reverence for real art and encourage more people to get out to museums and galleries.
RACE FOR THE GOLD
Need widespread broadband access to create large market that drives investments.
(228) The investments will be driven by
faith that the market will be large. Neither the full highway nor the
market will exist until a broadband network has been brought to most
homes and businesses.
(228) The public itself can't know, because it hasn't had experience with video-capable interactive networks and applications. . . . My view is that the highway won't be a sudden, revolutionary creation but that the Internet, along with evolution in the PC and PC software, will guide us step by step to the full system.
Trials will determine what applications will appeal to the public and become killer apps of the Internet; does not mention porn.
(230) These forthcoming trials will give companies the opportunity to look for the equivalents of the spreadsheet—unexpected killer applications and services that will capture the imagination of consumers—and build a financial case for rolling out the highway. It's almost impossible to guess what applications will or won't appeal to the public. Customers' needs and desires are so personal. . . . For instance, I hope to be able to use the highway to stay up-to-date on medical advances.
Entrepreneurship and market-driven decisions will shape development of information highway as it did the personal computer industry.
(231) Entrepreneurship will play a
major role in shaping the development of the information highway, the
same way it shaped the personal-computer business. Only a handful of
companies that made mainframe software managed the transition to
personal computers. Most successes came from little start-ups, run by
people who were open to new possibilities.
(231) The good news is that people learn from both the successes and the failures, and the net result is rapid progress.
(231) By letting the marketplace decide which companies and approaches win and which lose, many paths are explored simultaneously.
Deregulations of communications needed; look at successes and failures of PTT monopolies in other countries, as Abbate does.
(232) Federal regulations currently
prevent cable and phone companies from offering a general-purpose
network that would put them in competition with each other. The first
thing most governments have to do to help the highway start is to
(233) Outside the United States, matters are complicated by the fact that in many countries the regulated monopolies have been agencies owned by the government itself. They were called PTTs because they managed postal, telephone, and telegraph services. In some countries the PTT is being allowed to go ahead and develop the highway, but when government organizations are involved, things often move slowly.
(233) Great Britain, however, is the farthest along in actually using a single network to provide both television and cable services.
(233-234) If we look back in ten years, I think we'll see a clear correlation between the amount of telecommunications reform in each country and the state of its information economy. . . . I'm sure the entire spectrum of different regulatory schemes will be tried. The “right” solution will vary somewhat in different countries.
Philosophical position do not legislate compatibility for computing technology because it is so dynamic.
(234) One area it's clear government
should stay out of is compatibility. Some have suggested that
governments set standards for networks, to guarantee that they
(234) In the world of computing, technology is so dynamic that any company should be able to come out with whatever new product it wants and let the market decide if it has made the right set of trade-offs.
Advantage of Singapore population density and focus on infrastructure, with admission that cultural maintenance requires mechanisms besides censorship.
(235-236) In Singapore, the population density and political focus on infrastructure makes it certain that this nation will be a leader. . . . He [Lee Kuan Yew] said Singapore recognizes that in the future it will have to rely on methods other than censorship to maintain a culture that sacrifices some Western-style freedom in exchange for a strong sense of community.
wishes to enter information highway while maintaining control,
foreshadowing mass data collection and surveillance practices.
(236) In China, however, the government seems to believe it can have it both ways. . . . Wu said Beijing will adopt unspecified “management measures” to control inflows of data on all telecommunications services as they evolve in China. . . . He may not understand that to implement full Internet access and maintain censorship, you would almost have to have someone looking over the shoulder of every user.
France Minitel has already stimulated interest with online systems, Germany lowered ISDN prices, and PC penetration higher in Nordic countries than in the US, whereas Japanese adoption hindered by character set and entrenched word processing machine business.
(236) In France, the pioneering on-line
service, Minitel, has fostered a community of information publishers
and stimulated broad familiarity with on-line systems in
(236) In Germany, Deutsche Telekom lowered the price of ISDN service dramatically in 1995. This has led to a significant increase in the number of users connecting personal computers.
(236) The level of PC penetration in business is even higher in the Nordic countries than in the United States.
(236-237) The use of personal computers in businesses, schools, and homes is significantly less widespread in Japan than in other developed countries. This is partly because of the difficulty of entering kanjii characters on a keyboard, but also because of Japan's large and entrenched market for dedicated word-processing machines.
South Korea has large percentage of PCs going into homes, where Gates sees a lucrative market.
(237) In South Korea, although significantly fewer PCs per capita are being sold than in the United States, more than 25 percent of the machines are going into homes. This statistic demonstrates how countries with a strong family structure that put great emphasis on getting ahead by educating children will be fertile ground for products that provide educational advantages.
New Zealand success with privatized phone company shows value of open telecommunications market; praise for procompetition regulations and concern about government sponsored boondoggles like Japanese Hi-Vision TV project, but no credit to government sponsorship of Arpanet and TCP/IP.
(237) New Zealand has the most open
telecommunications market in the world, and its newly privatized
phoen company has set an example of how effective privatization can
(238) No taxpayer money will be needed to build the highway in industrialized countries with pro-competition regulations.
(238) A government bootstrap could, in principle, cause an information highway to be built sooner than might happen otherwise, but the very real possibility of an unattractive outcome has to be considered carefully. Such a country might end up with a boondoggle, white-elephant information highway built by engineers out of touch with the rapid pace of technological development.
(238) Something like this happened in Japan with the Hi-Vision high-definition television project.
Expects ISDN adoption to outpace broadband cable solutions; ambitions of both go beyond providing access.
(241) The opportunity to provide ISDN
to PC users will provide new revenues to phone companies that want to
bring the price levels down to establish a mass market. I expect ISDN
adoption to get off to a faster start than PC cable modes.
(241) The ambitions of cable and phone companies go well beyond simply providing a pipe for bits.
Other providers include railroad companies, satellites, and ground-based wireless.
(243) Cable and phone industries will
be the primary, but not the only, competitors to provide the network.
Railroad companies in Japan, for example, recognize that the
rights-of-way they have for their tracks would be ideal for long
fiber-optic cable runs.
(244) Teledisc, a company that my friend, cellular telephone pioneer Craig McCaw, and I have invested in, is working on overcoming the limits of satellite technology by using a large number of low-orbit satellites.
(244) Another rapidly advancing technology is ground-based wireless communication.
Use generic PCs to do the work coordinating network services and spawn new devices like set-top boxes; did not foresee floss as viable software solution.
(245) Software companies naturally see
their product as the answer. Software is so inexpensive to duplicate
that substituting it for costly hardware reduces system costs.
Another competition is shaping up to supply the software platforms
that will run tehse servers.
(245-246) At Microsoft, our only “hammer” is software. We expect that the highway's intelligence will be evenly divided between servers and information appliances. . . . Our approach is to make the coordination of the highway a software problem and then use the highest-volume (and therefore cheapest) computers to do the work—the same ones used in the PC industry.
(246) We believe tools and applications available on the PC today can be used to build new applications. For instance, we think set-top boxes should be able to run most of the CD-ROM titles for PCs that will appear over the next decade.
Market will influence user interface, funding mechanisms, and technical aspects of network design.
(247) The are open questions such as to
what extent these platforms will share a personality or user
(247) There are other, similar decisions awaiting judgment of the marketplace. For instance, will advertising play a large role in underwriting information and entertainment, or will customers pay directly for most services?
(247) The market will also influence technical aspects of network design. Most experts believe that the interactive network will use asynchronous transfer mode (ATM), but today ATM costs too much to use.
Skeptical of corporate mergers because most businesses have a core competency; alliances preferred.
(248) I have always believed businesses
that concentrate on a very few core competencies will do the
(248) Beware! Mergers that are attempts to bring all aspects of highway expertise into one organization should be viewed skeptically.
(249) We believe in alliances and are eager to participate in them. Our core mission, however, is to build a number of software components for the information highway.
Study what is popular with PCs connected to the Internet to know where the future is going.
(249) Mergers and mania are fun to watch. But if you want to know how the race to build the information highway is really going, keep your eye on PCs connected to the Internet, and on the software applications that are popular in highway trials. At least that's what I'm going to do.
Could be a whole area of study for the philosophy of computing to discern what Gates intends by the title of this final chapter, critical issues; to him it means people understanding how the future will be different as the information highway evolves.
(250) People want to understand how it will make the future different.
Optimistic predictions of impact on masses, reminiscent of Phaedrus.
(250-251) I've already said I'm an optimist, and I'm optimistic about the impact of the new technology. It will enhance leisure time and enrich culture by expanding the distribution of information. It will help relieve pressures on urban areas by enabling individuals to work from home or remote-site offices. . . . Whole new markets will emerge, and a myriad new opportunities for employment will be created.
Shifting richness defining good life.
(251) Advancing productivity propels societies forward, and it is only a matter of time before the average person in a developed country will be “richer” in many ways than anyone is today.
First concern is dislocation of workers, creating need for retraining.
(251) There will be dislocations in some business sectors that will create a need for worker retraining.
Gates takes position of philosopher king, a big person of the developing projective city; strange to call it a revolution if the plan is to manage its arrival.
(252) We've got a good number of years to observe the course of the coming revolution, and we should use that time to make intelligent rather than reflexive decisions.
Claims that few business sectors have been hurt by the PC, and job categories always changing, ignore shift to flexibility and part time status imposed on workers so important to Boltanski and Chiapello.
(252) Outside the computer industry it
is also hard to find a complete business sector hurt by the PC.
(253) Job categories change constantly in an evolving economy.
(253-254) We may regret the cultural ramifications, but warehouse stores and fast-food chains are thriving because consumers, who vote with their dollars, tend to support outlets that pass their productivity savings along in the form of lower prices.
Incorporate sense of procedural rhetoric as general problem solving skill and component of lifelong learning, again consonant with projective city; first step is to come to terms with computers so PCs become tools instead of threats.
(254) More than ever, an education that
emphasizes general problem-solving skills will be important. . . .
The premium that society pays for skills is going to climb, so my
advice is to get a good formal education and then keep on learning.
Acquire new interests and skills throughout your life.
(255) A first step will be to come to terms with computers. . . . The more experience people have with PCs, the better they understand what they can and can't do. Then PCs become tools instead of threats.
Requirement of mostly free computing has led to siren server oligopolies according to Lanier; Gates points to shift from other traditional sources of information and entertainment.
(256) However, personal computer are
still too expensive for most people. Before the information highway
can become fully integrated into society, it must be available to
virtually every citizen, not just the elite, but this does not mean
that every citizen has to have an information appliance in his
(256) Eventually the costs of computing and communications will be so low, and the competitive environment so open, that much of the entertainment and information offered on the highway will cost very little. Advertising income will allow a lot of content to be free. However, most service providers, whether they are rock bands or consulting engineers or book publishers, will still ask that users make a payment.
(256-257) A large portion of the money you will spend on highway services you spend today for the same services in other forms. . . . Most of the money that now goes to local telephone service, long-distance service, and cable television will be available to spend on the highway.
Egalitarian access to most information.
(257) Access to government information,
medical advice, bulletin boards, and some educational material will
be free. Once people are on the highway, they will enjoy full
egalitarian access to vital on-line resources.
(257) Part of the beauty of the electronic world is that the extra cost of letting additional people use educational material is basically zero.
Long term philosophical issues include correcting gender imbalances in developing computer expertise.
(258) Ultimately, the information
highway is not for my generation or those before me. It is for future
(258) We have to pay particular attention to correcting the gender imbalance. . . . By making sure that girls as well as boys become comfortable with computers at an early age we can ensure that they play their rightful role in all the work that benefits from computer expertise.
Settle for virtual equity, as if access to information equalizes social situations.
(258-259) One of the wonderful things about the information highway is that virtual equity is far easier to achieve than real-world equity. It would take a massive amount of money to give every grammar school in every poor area the same library resources as the schools in Beverly Hills. However, when you put schools on-line they all get the same access to information, wherever it might be stored. We are all created equal in the virtual world, and we can use this equality to help address some of the sociological problems that society has yet to solve in the physical world. The network will not eliminate barriers of prejudice or inequality, but it will be a powerful force in that direction.
Ethical problems surrounding distributing information as intellectual property similar to medicine, focusing on high development costs rather than manufacturing and distribution.
(259) But supply-and-demand economics
gets into trouble when it comes to intellectual property, because
ordinary rules regarding manufacturing costs don't apply. Typically
there are huge up-front development costs for intellectual
(259) When you buy a new medicine, you're paying mostly for what the drug company spent for research, development, and testing.
Example of unfair tax burden on the wealthy for using public services applied to universal service doctrine for media access in rural areas.
(260) Through the income tax and other
taxes, people with high incomes pay more for roads, schools, the
army, and every other government facility than the average person
does. It cost me more than $100 million last year to get those
services because I paid a significant capital gains tax after selling
some Microsoft shares.
(260) We should expect heated debate about whether the government should subsidize connections to rural areas, or impose regulations that cause urban users to subsidize rural ones. The precedent for this is a doctrine known as “universal service,” which was created to subsidize rural mail, phone, and electrical services in the United States. It dictates a single price for the delivery of a letter, a phone call, or electrical power regardless of where you live.
(260) There was no equivalent policy for the delivery of newspapers or radio or television reception.
(261) Because many people will find the combination of rural lifestyle and urban information attractive, network companies will have an incentive to run fiber-optic lines to high-income remote areas.
New competition for knowledge workers in industrialized countries, but net effect will be wealthier world.
(261) Knowledge workers in
industrialized countries will, in a sense, face new competition—just
as some manufacturing workers in industrialized countries have
experienced competition from developing nations over the past
(261) The net effect will be a wealthier world, which should be stabilizing. . . . Starting out behind is sometimes an advantage. It lets those who adopt late skip steps, and avoid the mistakes of the trailblazers.
Another convergence reducing importance of national boundaries.
(262) The presence of advanced communications systems promises to make nations more alike and reduce the importance of national boundaries.
Gates not worried about revolution of expectations by the disenfranchised or xenophobia.
(262) Some believe it will cause
discontent and worse, a “Revolution of Expectations,” when
disenfranchised people get enough data about another lifestyle to
contrast it with their own.
(263) I doubt this will happen, because I think people want a sense of belonging to many communities, including a world community. . . . We are “together” at these moments.
Gates proposes speed bumps as voluntary resistance to VR addiction for those becoming Weizenbaum computer bums or robotic moment.
(264) If you were to find yourself
escaping into these attractive worlds too often, or for too long, and
began to be worried about it, you could try to deny yourself
entertainment by telling the system, “No matter what password I
give, don't let me play any more than half an hour of games a
(264) Speed bumps help a lot with behavior that tends to generate day-after regrets. . . . Frankly, I'm not too concerned about the world whiling away its hours on the information highway. At worst, I expect, it will be like playing video games or gambling. Support groups will convene to help abusers who want to modify their behavior.
More concerned about cryptographic vulnerabilities and sloppy security leading to digital disasters than dumbing down society through habitual Internet use.
(264) A more serious concern than
individual overindulgence is the vulnerability that could result from
society's heavy reliance on the highway.
(265) A complete failure of the information highway is worth worrying about. Because the system will be thoroughly decentralized, any single outage is unlikely to have a widespread effect. . . . One area of vulnerability is the system's reliance on cryptography—the mathematical locks that keep information safe.
(265) Sloppiness is the main reason computer security gets breached.
A potential weapon of math destruction is a breakthrough in factoring large prime numbers; no backup technique ready to deploy.
(265-266) The obvious mathematical breakthrough would be development of an easy way to factor large prime numbers. . . . We have to ensure that if any particular encryption technique proves fallible, there is a way to make an immediate transition to an alternative technique.
Concern for loss of privacy by correlating disparate data repositories.
(266) Loss of privacy is another major
concern about the highway. . . . The scattered nature of information
protects your privacy in an informal way, but when the repositories
are all connected together on the highway, it will be possible to use
computers to correlate it. Credit data could be linked with
employment records and sales transaction records to construct an
intrusively accurate picture of your personal activities.
(266) The potential problem is abuse, not the mere existence of information.
Gates find complete life documentation chilling, but does provide digital alibi; black box data recorders and cameras everywhere.
(268) I find the prospect of documented
lives a little chilling, but some people will warm to the idea. One
reason for documenting a life will be defensive. We can think of the
wallet PC as an alibi machine, because encrypted digital signatures
will guarantee an unforgeable alibi against false accusations.
(268) This sort of record won't affect just the police. . . . I can imagine proposals that every automobile, including yours and mine, be outfitted not only with a recorder but also with a transmitter that identifies the car and its location—a future license plate.
Pervasive surveillance unremarkable: to other critics this is a major concern, but Gates is a proponent of accepting the tradeoff of lost anonymity and privacy in exchange for increased security, foreseeing 9/11 aftermath.
Interesting statement the technology will enable society to make political decisions about surveillance levels.
(269) In a world that is increasingly
instrumented, we could reach the point where cameras record most of
what goes on in public.
(269) The prospect of so many cameras, always watching, might have distressed us fifty years ago, as it did George Orwell. But today they are unremarkable. . . . Within a decade, computers will be able to scan video records very inexpensively looking for a particular person or activity.
(269-270) Almost everyone is willing to accept some restrictions in exchange for a sense of security. . . . It might take only a few more incidents like the bombing in Oklahoma City within the borders of the United States for attitudes toward strong privacy protection to shift. What today seems like digital Big Brother might one day become the norm if the alternative is being left to the mercy of terrorists and criminals. I am not advocating either position—technology will enable society to make a political decision.
Believes governments will be unable to tap or decrypt everyday personal computer data; ironic statement following NSA revelations by Snowden.
(270) Encryption-technology software,
which anyone can download from the Internet, can transform a PC into
a virtually unbreakable code machine.
(270) No policy decision will be able to restore the tapping capabilities governments had in the past.
Media advances affect politics; argues information highway will empower citizen interest groups and allow even smallest cause to be debated.
(271) Each media advance has had a
substantial effect on how people and governments interact.
(271) Even if the model of political decision making does not change explicitly, the highway will bestow power on groups of citizens who want to organize to promote causes or candidates.
(271-272) It will become so easy to organize a political movement that no cause will be too small or scattered. . . . Eventually, the highway will become a primary conduit of political discourse.
Defense of representative government model for middleman value add, whose performance can be better monitored via the information highway.
(272) There is a place in governance
for representatives—middlemen—to add value.
(272) Instead of being given photos and sound bites, voters will be able to get a much more direct sense of what their representatives are doing and how they're voting.
Historical impact of information highway on par with scientific method, printing, and industrial manufacturing; by now most of the predications Gates made should have materialized.
(273) We are watching something
historic happen, and it will affect the world seismically, rocking us
the same way the discovery of the scientific method, the invention of
printing, and the arrival of the Industrial Age did.
(273) The first manifestations of the information highway will be apparent in the United States by the millennium. Within a decade there will be widespread effects. . . . Within twenty years virtually everything I've talked about in this book will be broadly available in developed countries and in businesses and schools in developing countries.
Final critical assessment is that information highway will provide choices for connecting people with entertainment, information, and each other.
(274) Above all, and in countless new ways, the information highway will give us choices that can put us in touch with entertainment, information, and each other.
Greatest benefits will be technological applications to education.
(275) As I suggested in chapter 9, the greatest benefits will come from the application of technology to education—formal and informal. To help facilitate this in a small way, my portion of the proceeds from this book will go to support teachers who are incorporating computers into their classrooms.
Hopes Microsoft will play a major role in shaping information highway despite already having been a major force in development of personal computer.
(275-276) It's a little scary that as computer technology has moved ahead there's never been a leader from one era who was also a leader in the next. Microsoft has been a leader in the PC era. So from a historical perspective, I guess Microsoft is disqualified from leading in the highway era of the Information Age. But I want to defy historical tradition.
Clearly states that Microsoft corporate strategy is following his visions of the information highway in addition to listening to customers.
Gates wants everyone to discuss technology in order to guide it, not just technologists.
(276) For me, a
big part of the fun has always been to hire and work with smart
people. I enjoy learning from them. . . . If Microsoft can combine
these visions with listening carefully to customers, we have a chance
to continue to lead the way.
(276) It's important that both the good and bad points of the technological advances be discussed broadly so that society as a whole, rather than just technologists, can guide its direction.
optimism at onset of information highway to renewed critical focus
twenty years later, the call from philosophers of computing.
(276) My hope is that after reading this book you will share some of my optimism, and will join the discussion about how we should be shaping the future.
Gates, William H. The Road Ahead. New York: Viking, 1995. Print.