Tech > Wrong: Hey, everybody makes mistakes!

updated 3.23.2005

In an ironically apt metaphor for this entire page, the first incarnation of it disappeared when my laptop battery died in mid-sentence.  This despite the "full" indicator I had.  So, bearing in mind my newly-proven track record in technological competence...

Why is it that I don't play the stock market?  Why don't I make a fortune as a consultant telling people "the next big thing"?  Maybe this will explain it.

Top 6 Technology Things I've Gotten Wrong:

The Internet.  Why not start with the biggest thing I missed?  Bear in mind that I cut my computing teeth on 300 baud modems, dialing into individual Bulletin Board Systems (BBS's) run out of people's basements.  (I ran one with a friend of mine for a year or two around 1987.  Those were the days!)  In a time when the best thing out there was QuantumLink -- think America Online as an infant -- I certainly didn't anticipate worldwide, nearly-instantaneous TCP/IP connectivity.  Whoops.

Fast Modems.  This is actually a sub-point of "The Internet".  I never figured people would have a need for modems faster than 2400 baud or so.  Why?  Because you can't read e-mail faster than that, and what else could you possibly expect to do with a computer and a phone line?  (Don't laugh; people really thought this way, long ago...)

The Internet As We Know It.  By 1994 or so, the existence of "the Internet" was pretty clear to me.  (I'm not that dense!)  But, I didn't think it would ever reach beyond the academic world  Why not?  Because I couldn't see the financial incentive to build the infrastructure required to make it what it is today.  What did I miss?  Advertising.  Though the recent dot-com shakeouts are helping to show that Internet advertising doesn't work too well... that fact didn't stop investors from creating "the Internet Economy".

Push Technology.  I thought this would be huge.  For the young'uns out there, "Push" is an ancient, archaic concept dating all the way back to 1996, when Pointcast promoted a screen saver that delivered (or "pushed") news headlines and the like to your desktop.  I really liked having this information at my fingertips.  But the rest of the planet preferred to go out and view the information they wanted, rather than having a pre-selected pile of it dumped on their computer.

UPDATE (March 2005):  Actually, "push technology" is back in the form of RSS feeds.  I talk about this a little bit on the March 20th podcast of the Ericast.  Everything old is new again!

Agents.  This isn't totally dead; it lives on in Microsoft's "Office Assistant" -- the dancing paperclip in the Office suite that's actually tremendously useful... but which most people find tremendously annoying.  Microsoft was doing a lot of development with Desktop Agents in 1997/98, complete with voice synthesis and cute personalities.  (My personal favorite was "Merlin".)  But the concept never took off like I thought it would.

UPDATE (March 2005):  Sites like SitePal are reviving this concept, but it's still not where I thought it would be (or where it has the potential to go; my initial thoughts were good ones, but they just never fell into place the way they should have!)

Autostereoscopic LCD Displays (NEW!).  I think this now rises to the level of a "failed prediction", considering I officially predicted at the start of a class in Spring 2003 that these would be "mainstream products" by the end of that semester. (Good thing an M.A. doesn't ride on your predictive abilities!)  These displays exist; you see something in 3D without having to wear special glasses.  But they're still over $1000 per display, the software support is limited, and they're hard to find.  Other than that, they're wonderful!



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