Not only will the Mac be invisible - so will our phones

Continuing the discussion from Photo compares portable Mac from 25 years ago to one today:

I didn’t mean to start a new thread. In Star Trek, we need the button on the shirt and the tri-corder to know that they are communicating. But before this century is over, people will be connected every way our computers and phones are connected today - without external devices.

The question is what new uses that connectivity will add.

I find it fascinating to read half-century old SF, looking at all of the things we took for granted when I first read them, noticing what technology misses there were - not to mention smoking in spaceships, while thinking about the housewives at home.

#Sliderules… in… Spaaaaaaace!


Frankly while it may seem silly I’d rather people in space know how to use a slide-rule and otherwise can do the backup work of figuring out where and how to go.

And I agree. old scifi is just plain weird given what they thought would happen, didn’t predict… and scarrily actually got right (to an extent.)


I would love an audio-only phone. The problem with them in old SF is that they were used as actual communicators, and didn’t exist for the main purpose of being marketed as fetish objects. I have argued for years that phones have been diverging further away from an ideal practical phone UI. As a fetish object, that it’s a glowing thing one needs to see and touch seems to count as a feature instead of a UI failure.


I disagree completely. Voice calls are just a small part of what a smartphone does.

There’s email, web browsing and Wikipedia lookups. Texting is a very convenient form of communication for people on both ends of the conversation. It’s informal, and there’s no need for an immediate response. There’s maps, bus stop schedules and more.

As for the voice-only interface, it’s been over 30 years since my first computer with built-in voice recognition. While there have been improvements, it’s still awkward and unreliable to talk to a machine. Gesture controls aren’t any better.

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Well, there’s this:

And of course, this:

What this all glosses over is that there is not anything intrinsically visual to any text-based communication. It’s still just words, and for busy people in motion, voice tends to be a more efficient way to use language. An html or sms client isn’t concerned with where the user’s text comes from. Your example of maps is the only one which would require some adaptation. As a communications medium, one is not talking to a machine any more than when one uses a telephone. Likewise, I send email via my computer, not to my computer. Some of this awkwardness might be largely a matter of perspective in how one conceptualizes the technology.

I use keyboards also, but I certainly would not want to rely upon buying a computer with a built-in keyboard! I have a few old boxen with those and they are awful to type on. As for phones, my old Palm was still far better for typing than my touchscreen Android unit - the only advantage to the touchscreen is that it probably saved the manufacturer $5 which I gladly pay to have it back.

Typing IS a gestural control, and I think represents some decent compromises. But the most intuitive gestural interface will always be those which one plans and builds themselves.

Although I have always been partial to voice interface, this bias has become only stronger over the past ten years as my eyesight has gone from nearly perfect to nearly unusable. I would probably be getting far more anxious about this if not for the assurance that I can still use the systems I need.

The main thing modern phones have shown us to change literature is that they bring about ubiquitous connectivity. So much literature has characters not knowing what the audience knows, and unable to find out things easily. Not being isolated (in the same way, at least) changes plots.

Projecting smart phones into the future will have the same kinds of errors that projecting rocket ships, smoking, & Donna Reed women roles into the future - but such connectivity won’t go away.


Your example of maps is the only one which would require some adaptation.

In 600 feet, turn left onto Northern Boulevard. Your destination will be on the right.


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