Mar 24

Tim O'Reilly

Tim O'Reilly

Bob Frankston: Smart Shirts, Small World

I just got an interesting email from Bob Frankston, forever famous as one of the creators of Visicalc. He wrote, referring to a recent story in Make: about smart shirts that monitor vital signs:

I see that Sundaresan Jayaraman's smart shirts made it to the world of Make. That's wonderful.

Just as an FYI, he worked at Software Arts in the old days. I don't claim he's been successful because of us but, as with Ray Ozzie and David Reed, it recalls the old days when there were just 20 computer people in the world and they all worked on Mica Lane in Wellesley. OK, maybe there were two or three on the west coast but mostly in Wellesley except for a few people writing books in the wilds of Cambridge.

Sundaresan was a student of Milos Konapasik (I might have the spelling wrong) who taught textiles at Georgia Tech and worked at Software Arts to create TK!Solver because of the need to solve complex equations. With all the attention focused on glitzy bio stuff it's good to remember that there are other cross-disciplinary opportunities such as mashing up textiles and computing.

It's another reason why information engineering should be taught as a basic skill and not just as an isolated discipline.

Bob's last couple of lines say it all. I love the thought of "Mashing up textiles and computing" as a exemplar for the way computing is moving out of the computer. On the one hand, we've got the Web 2.0 data cloud, and on the other, ubiquitous sensing. As these two come together, the world of computing will change more than it has since its beginning. And it's nice to see that some of the early pioneers are still doing fascinating new work.

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Comments: 3

  Joe Hunkins [03.24.06 02:04 PM]

At MIX06 conference the best idea I heard was yours - the evolution of a sort of deviceOsphere where the staggering amount of device data gets collectively shared in new mashup style applications.

Think of a traffic map where thousands of drivers are sharing in real time their observations and auto measurements of weather, road conditions, CRIME events, alternate routes, etc.

  Tim O'Reilly [03.24.06 07:40 PM]

Joe -- I completely agree. The web of devices is really going to be Web 3.0. There's so much more ahead of us. But I think that the current Web 2.0 principles tell us a lot about what that future will require as well: architectures of participation that let applications and services get smarter the more devices are connected, dynamic update, and an understanding that what we need to watch out for is data lock-in more than software API lock-in.

  Joe Hunkins [03.24.06 10:33 PM]

Cool - just be sure to remind Bill Gates of those points the next time you see him. I admire his global development efforts HUGELY but not sure he applies the same sensibilities to Microsoft developments.

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