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Apple Knowledge Navigator — 1988

15 Views· 02/22/20
Aryel Narvasa
Aryel Narvasa

For more background, see: http://onforb.es/p8AlsY

Here is how John Sculley, Apple's CEO in 1988, describes the creation of this video:

Alan [Kay] told me [in 1986] that every innovative technology, no matter how simple or how complex, always takes about fifteen to twenty years to evolve from concept to a commercial ready state. If this were true, then many of the technologies that would be important to Apple's future were already in some stage of percolating their way through this evolving process. Thus began a year of our visiting research laboratories, technical universities and many discussions between Alan, me and various Apple engineers where we tried to map out what might seem obvious to everybody in twenty years.

The culmination of Alan and my year's investigation together was conceptualized in 1987 in what we called the Knowledge Navigator. While Moore's Law had already predicted that processing power in the next twenty years would be able to manipulate three-dimensional geometries in real time, the Knowledge Navigator envisioned a world of interactive multimedia communications where computation became just a commodity enabler and knowledge applications would be accessed by smart agents working over networks connected to massive amounts of digitized information.

In 1987, Apple also invested in a Cray XMP 48 super computer which enabled our engineers to experiment with what real time manipulation of multidimensional objects on a screen would look and feel like many years before such computational power would be available on general purpose personal computers.

I was intrigued by Alan's certainty that the Knowledge Navigator was not a far-fetched idea. We asked: couldn't we use Hollywood special effects animation to simulate what the experience of the Knowledge Navigator would be like long before it was possible to build anything like it?

Alan's wife Bonnie MacBird was the screenwriter on Disney's original Tron motion picture and we engaged her along with the Apple creative team of Hugh Dubberly and Doris Mitch to create a video simulation which would capture the experience of a professor at Berkeley using the Knowledge Navigator in the year 2009. To me, such an approach was not much different from the techniques we had used when we produced Pepsi Generation or the 1984 Macintosh TV commercials. In marketing, perception always leads reality.

Excerpted from John Sculley's essay in "Points of View is a collection of previously-unpublished essays written to celebrate Alan Kay's 70th birthday."

Available at http://www.vpri.org/pov/

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