2 x 50

Today I visited the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. It’s a marvelous place, and there were many things there that delighted me.

But two in particular jumped out. Both were invented exactly fifty years ago, and both have managed to change the way we look at reality.

One was Alan Kay’s original mock-up of the Dynabook — his vision for what a computer might one day look like. This radical concept influenced everything to come, informing the design of the notebook computer, the SmartPhone and the data tablet.

It’s remarkable to realize that Alan introduced such a design in the Paleolithic age of computation. Back then, when most people thought of a “computer” they pictured a mainframe consisting of row after row of giant room filling cabinets.

The other was Ivan Sutherland’s original “Sword of Damocles”: the very first working virtual reality headset. How astonishing that Ivan could see the future from such a long distance away. It takes a special kind of vision to see that far.

I wonder what visions someone might be having now that will have that kind of impact in another half a century. Maybe we will just need to wait to find out.

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