The Future is Now!

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The beginning of knowledge is the discovery of something we do not understand.

                                                        Frank Herbert

Thirteen hundred years ago, the Greek writer and philosopher, Plato gave us the expression, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”  Today, that is rarely the case. 

To the contrary, in our fast-paced, modern world of rapidly advancing technology and innovation, more often than not it is invention that is the mother of necessity.

No one would have ever invented microwavable meals were it not for the necessity of giving consumers something to put in their microwave ovens.  Likewise, the development of the Ipod was the logical and necessary response to the advent of Internet music down loads.

Thirty-five years ago, researchers at Xerox Corporation’s Palo Alto Research Center developed the first Graphical User Interface system for computers (GUI).  Until that time, computers where dependent on cryptic languages such as BASIC and DOS to perform the most elementary tasks.  The GUI developed at Xerox was built on a user friendly model that would allow its operator to approach the computer as though it were his/her own personal office or study, with a desktop and files for generation and storage of information.  Unfortunately, Management at Xerox had no notion of what they were sitting on, and even less of an idea of what to do with it. 

Xerox had the knowledge but lacked the vision to realize the potential of their invention.

A short time later, two computer geeks named Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, working independently and in fierce competition with one another, had the vision to recognize what Xerox had failed to see, and gave the world the operating systems used today on virtually all home computers.

A visionary is one who has the capacity to see into Tomorrow and make it work.

                                                        Nelson A. Rockefeller

Around that same time, Phillips Electronics developed something they were calling a videocassette recorder (VCR) which would allow consumers to watch movies and other programs on a new videotape format (VHS) in the comfort of their living rooms. 

(If only there was such a thing as movies and other programs available on videocassettes.) 

There was not, and Phillips sold a few of the devices in England, and few more elsewhere via mail order. 

Phillips had the knowledge and the vision, but lacked the imagination to make the VCR a common household appliance at that time.

However, a short time later, the Sony Corporation, recognizing what Phillips was sitting on, debuted their Betamax video cassette system, a superior product for recording and playing back programs on regular TV sets, and the age of Home Video was underway.

Sony had the knowledge, the vision, and the imagination to make Home Video a reality.

Imagination is more important than knowledge…

                                                        Albert Einstein

Unfortunately Sony was foolish and shortsighted and insisted on maintaining their proprietary Beta format for their exclusive use.  This allowed Phillips to get back in the game, and by the late ‘70s, instead of shutting VHS out of the market by sharing their Beta format with the world, Sony killed the goose that laid the golden egg, and Beta was dead.

Knowledge, plus vision, plus imagination, plus arrogance, sometimes equals folly.

  — My Mother

On April 3, 1973, while General Manager of Motorola’s Communications Systems Division, Martin Cooper (now chairman, CEO, and co-founder of ArrayComm Inc) placed the first mobile cellular phone call.  Using a device about the size of a brick, he phoned a rival at AT&T’s Bell Labs from the streets of New York City.  Armed with the knowledge, imagination, and vision to make the future happen, Cooper initiated a fundamental technology and communications market shift toward the person and away from the place, and gave the world mobile telecommunication.

Some 37 years after Martin Cooper made his historic phone call from a Manhattan sidewalk, there are more than 1.9 billion mobile phone subscribers worldwide.  Interestingly, phone use across the world today, unlike Cooper’s call 37 years ago, may not necessarily involve a conversation between one person and another.    

            According to Sprint which recently announced the results of its Consumer Wireless Usage Study, more than half of wireless phone subscribers (56 percent) rely on their mobile phones for features such as cameras, clocks, calendars, messaging, music, and as a substitute flashlight for seeing in dark places.
               “The list of features and data applications available on mobile phones continues to grow to meet the needs of consumers on the go,” said Jeff Hallock, vice president of product marketing and strategy for Sprint. “Whether it’s using location-based services to get driving directions, listening to streaming music or watching live TV, consumers are finding that the mobile phone is the one item they depend on most to stay connected and entertained.”  

            In January, 2006, a group of the industry’s leading wireless and entertainment companies announced the formation of new organization created to promote the growth and evolution of Digital Video Broadcasting – Handheld (DVB-H), an open procedure standard for broadcast digital TV reception on mobile devices. The organization, called the Mobile DTV Alliance, includes representatives from Intel Corporation, Modeo, Motorola, Nokia and Texas Instruments.  As mobile video entertainment gains increased awareness and achieves greater availability, the Alliance will focus on promoting the best practices and open standards that deliver premium-quality broadcast television to mobile devices for the world market.
            “The mobile TV market is heating up, with both trials and deployments accelerating over the next 12-18 months,” said David Linsalata, Research Analyst for Mobile Markets at IDC. “The support of key industry players in promoting the advantages of the DVB-H standard will significantly aid mobile TV deployment efforts. “ 

                Today, there is technology being tested across the globe that will soon give consumers a single hand-held device that will serve as their, computer, stereo, television, camera, game console, GPS tracker, garage opener, remote car starter, beeper, calendar, and stock broker. 

            Who knows?  If the geniuses developing these devices possess the knowledge, vision, and imagination, you might even be able to use it to make a phone call.

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