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Am I The Only One?

Thursday, August 26, 2004

The Future That Isn't

Don't you just hate living in the future?

After all, today isn't exactly the tomorrow that we fantasized about yesterday. We went to Disneyland's Tomorrowland when we were kids, we saw the automatic kitchens, so we knew what to expect from adult life. And yet somehow, with the exception of a few innovations like the Internet, we got gyped by yesteryear. Where's my Dick Tracy wristwatch video phone? Where's my personal robot? Where's my flying car?

The flying car, actually, is in the news these days. Maybe we will see one by 2019. Or maybe I will be writing another column in 2019 about the long wait for flying cars.

In the mean time, can we take a moment and think about what we really want from our modern devices? Take the PDA. I've used the fancy new PDA's which moonlight as a cell phone, a pager, and who knows what else -- but they are either a pretty sorry PDA or a beast of a cell phone that is too big to fit into the device pocket of your geek-chic cargo pants.

What I am waiting for is a Laptop / Cell Phone / Wristwatch system that actually works together. The laptop would be about the size and depth of a standard leather notepad cover, and would weigh no more than 4 pounds. Perhaps it could even be bound in leather. The cell phone will be appropriately-sized for a cell phone, but still with Mobile Windows, a color screen, and small pop-out stylus. The tastefully-styled watch would feature be a mini-PDA and would contain all your schedule information, phone numbers, addresses, and alarms. And all three are connected wirelessly by Bluetooth.

Now listen close and cue the futuristic Euro-techno music: When I get a voicemail from a colleague informing me that the meeting has been moved up to 2pm, I can look at the screen on the cell phone and click the 'Accept Change' button, which automatically connects to my watch via Bluetooth and updates my reminder alarm for the meeting. The next time I walk past my laptop with either device, the change will be synchronized to it as well. I can use my laptop to notify me when the stock price of GOOG hits 125, and later in the day during my run, my watch beeps with GOOG's new price. I use my watch to select 'Buy'.

When I get back from my run, my laptop tells me that I received two phone calls today from unknown numbers, and would I like to add them to my Outlook contacts? I click 'ok' and the information is bluetoothed to my watch as well.

Perhaps we are not too far away from this. Perhaps. Or maybe I'm better off just holding out for that personal robot.

Random Sample From NPR: NPR was doing what it does best this morning when they brought us "Climbing Big Trees To Understand Them" (listen), a story about an Oregon man who is raising awareness of old growth forests by leading tourist to their top branches for an overnight stay. Bias: None.

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