|Expanding Access to Science and Technology (UNU, 1994, 462 pages)|
|Session 4 : Intelligent access to information: Part 2|
|The new world of computing: The sub-language paradigm|
The next decade will see the telephone, personal computer, workstation, and television set combined into a single, ubiquitous instrument - the telephone-computer. The telephone-computer will cause a rapid, widespread acceleration in the use of information processing and telecommunications. As a result of this major development, the market for both computer hardware and software will rapidly expand in both quantity and variety. This market will soon far exceed the current market for personal computers, workstations, and large transaction processors.
Current hardware capabilities are already adequate for this development: 30 MIP processing chips, voice digitizing, image processing and communication chips, 8 megabyte main memories, and 100+ megabyte peripheral memories are quite adequate for the great bulk of processing to be done. 144 K bits per second, error free, and soon 1,500 K bits per second, telecommunications, with packet switching, are now becoming available; capabilities can be expected to stay well ahead of foreseeable needs. New technologies, such as flat screens, and parallel processing chips will all enhance this radical change in the human-computer interface.
What will the era of the telephone-computer be like? This question has been the focus of our research over a number of years. One thing is clear: in the confluence of computer technology and telecommunications technology, we are witnessing one of history's major advances in human communication.
Industry is ill-prepared for this rapid acceleration of the information technologies. There are dislocations in the current software industry that work against the full development of the telephone-computer. One major symptom of these dislocations is the high cost of software development. Industry is acutely aware of these symptoms, as evidenced by their concern with "open systems" and "software engineering" approaches. However, the roots of these problems lie elsewhere. In this paper we will identify these roots and an approach that substantially corrects them.
As industry moves into this period of accelerating change and expanding market opportunity, management- indeed the industry as a whole - needs a coherent set of concepts that can provide the perspective required for intelligent decision-making. At this point in time, there is an almost total lack of sensible, down-to-earth concepts on which to develop an understanding and a strategy for what is taking place. Lacking perspective, managers in the computer industry are preoccupied with tactical questions and short-range considerations.
The artificial intelligence paradigm has distracted us and has proven to be inadequate. The successes of UNIX, on the one hand, and the Macintosh computer interface, on the other, have led industry into espousing the minimalist philosophy of the computer as an applications independent tool kit. The situation was stated succinctly by Dr. Robert W. Lucky in his capacity as Annenberg Distinguished Lecturer, the University of Southern California, on 22 January 1990.¹ After surveying the astounding advances in telecommunications resulting from the development of digital switching and optical fibre technologies, he asked the rhetorical question: "What are we going to do with this gigabyte? To be honest with you, nobody knows."
He went on to state that there is a total lack of leadership to carry us into the emerging telephone-computer era. In parallel with the vacuum in the conceptual area, he pointed out that the legal position of the Local Area Telephone Companies has worked against any telephone company taking a leadership role.
A new paradigm is needed that puts into proper perspective the role of the computer in human communications.