Tuesday, February 19, 2013

There was a time when using a computer was ......(Part 2)

Making ICT Mobile

"The great thing about a computer notebook is that no matter how much you stuff into it, it doesn't get bigger or heavier"
Bill Gates - Microsoft Founder

Reading the Steve Jobs biography recently, there was a story mentioned where Jobs in a team meeting during the early days of the Macintosh development in the early 1980’s, produced a little notebook and claimed that this was his dream for personal computers.  
  I remember my first laptop, shared amongst an entire department of 12 people and considered so precious that I had to sign it in and out of the office.  At the time, I remember arguments from people that they would never replace the desktop computer, because people liked sitting at a desk to do their work, or that it would encourage people to work at home.

Hobbyist computer users in particular were appalled, why would anyone create a motherboard where you couldn’t change expansion cards, add memory to slots, etc.?  At one point a previous manager I had in his wisdom decided to buy us all Luggable Computers (does anyone remember these?), these were often referred to as “Lunchboxes”, although mine resembled a Sewing Machine, and weighed in at around 12 kilos, to there wasn’t anything very portable about this particular generation of portable computers.

Thankfully Laptops came down in price (and size!!!!), and lo and behold, people started to realize that using a computer might not require a desk as an essential extra.

For people with a disability, particularly those with Communication Needs, laptops offered a whole new realm of opportunities; communication from a wheelchair, communication at home, at school, in McDonalds.  It also opened opportunities for software designers to move communication software to a cheaper, mass produced device that had more processing power than the old dedicated devices that were created solely as dedicated communication devices.

It also presented the opportunity to provide a person who couldn’t speak to use their personal communication device as a tool for learning, a writing tool, a means of accessing the Internet and of communicating with people at a distance.  Laptops, in effect began to make realistic the concept of having a multifunctional device for people with a disability at relatively low cost.

There were a couple of pretty disastrous forays into the world of Tablet Computers.  Anyone remember, Microsoft Tablet?  I do remember visiting a trade show and everyone marveling at how wonderful it might be to use a computer with a keyboard, or hey presto, with a pen.  I remember my first thought was, “I know I’d lose that pen”!

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