Friday, December 12, 2014

Predicting the Future, Part 2

Between 1998 and 2003, a group of IT staff members at Penn worked together to produce technology vision and strategy documents called PennNet-21. There were 3 editions, published in 1998, 2000 and 2003. Each explored relevant technologies and the steps we hoped to take to deliver better services to our user community.
As one small part of this effort, I wrote vignettes that helped to describe how future technologies could play a role in improving common workflows. I found them fun to write and fun to look back upon now. There were five in all. For the next few days I’ll publish one every day or so here in this blog, word for word as they appeared at the time. 
I invite you on a trip back to a “future as seen from the past” in these 5 PennNet-21 stories. As you read them, try to remember the actual technology of the time – a time before smartphones, generally before wireless networks, and before many of the things described were at all possible.

From PennNet-21 2nd Edition, 2000
“Taking It With You - a story set in 2003”

Stuart Mathis, a second year Penn graduate student, is walking across campus. He's wearing tiny headphones plugged into his wireless handheld Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) in order to listen to a recording of a recent lecture by his faculty advisor with whom he has been writing a journal paper. Stuart is on his way to a lecture on the opposite side of campus in a building he hasn't been to before, so he's using a wireless PennNet campus map and locator service that also allows his PDA to show his current location, his destination, and the best path between them even taking campus construction into account!

Since he still has more than 20 minutes before the lecture starts, Stuart decides to take a brief detour off his path to the Silfen Center near Houston Hall, where he rests for a moment and uses his PDA to look over his course options for next semester via PennInTouch. He then checks his email from his PDA, and sees that he has a message from his advisor with a short video attachment in which a fine point of their journal paper is briefly discussed. Stuart views the full message and then saves it back to his office desktop computer. He then gets up to continue his walk, but not before using his PDA and the locator program to find a nearby coke machine where he can buy a cold coke electronically using his PennCard.

He still has almost 15 minutes before the lecture starts, so he decides to take his walk slowly, using his PDA to watch a few minutes of a movie he rented over the Internet the night before.

Story1 / Story2 / Story3 / Story4 / Story5 /

The above appeared as a "PennNet-21 Story" in the 2000 publication PennNet-21 Second Edition. Some of it seems corny, some of it describes technologies that we really did come to know. Please leave a comment to let us know what you think, and come back soon to read the next of the PennNet-21 stories.

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