Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Back to the Future of Mobile

I'm sure you have heard by now that mobile computing is not new. For a quick trip down (fairly recent) memory lane I thought it would be fun to look at some 1990's mobility articles and quotes. For more of a long term view be sure to check out my article The History of Mobile Computing.

Firstly Mobile Computing: Past, Present, and Future by Vasilis Koudounas and Omar Iqbal. This article includes some good predictions of smart phones and social networks, my favorite quotes are:

  • "it may also be possible to have all the practicality of a mobile computer in the size of a hand held organizer or even smaller."
  • "This mobility aspect may be carried further in that, even in social spheres, people will interact via mobile stations, eliminating the need to venture outside of the house." 

Mobile Computing: Overview and Current Status by Arkady Zaslavsky and Zahir Tari gave a great summary of the state of play of mobile computing in the mid-90s. The Mobidick (MOBIle Databases, Interoperability, Computing, Knowledge) home page from around 1996 looks like it was a great resource. 

System Issues in Mobile Computing by Brian Marsh, Fred Douglis, and Ramon Caceres in the early 1990's. One quote I like includes "General-purpose computer systems can now be deployed in a 31/2 pound package costing under $2000" - Bear in mind with inflation that would be around $3300 in 2015. The article includes an interesting comparison of mobile (device E0880) versus desktop (DEC AXP 150) and shows an order of magnitude difference in computing power. This still holds true today (thanks to MIPS equivalents) you can see that a iMac i7 achieves ~11 times more MIPS than an iPhone 5S.

The Challenges of Mobile Computing by George Forman and John Zahorjan. Reading this I was surprised to see a great many of the challenges discussed are still relevant today. Obviously some of the technology has changed, Apple Newton's anyone?

While focusing on 90's articles it's worth mentioning to any millenials reading that the book Mobile Computing for Dummies came out in 1997. (Around the time of Symbian for Nokia and the dancing baby). And if we want to look back even further a bit of Google trawling will reveal references to mobile computing from the 80's including Computer World Magazine August 1983 along with Byte Magazine which where both advertising the groundbreaking Gavilan.

It's fun to read these publications and just because they are old you shouldn't discount them as great sources of knowledge. While manufacturers, operating systems, and tech trends continue to evolve there are some common patterns in mobile computing that still remain true. Users want safe/secure access and the ability to create and capture information at the point of relevance.