HP Journal imagines "handheld"


Does anyone remember (or have, for that matter) an early HP Journal (I think that was where I saw it) article that "imagines" what a handheld assistant of the future might be like? I was a lot younger in those days, more gadget-oriented (well, than I am now :), and remember parts of it vividly, wish I could read / enjoy it again.

Our intrepid portagonist is wandering around an airport, lost and uncertain where his HP device is, let alone his flight. So he whistles / speaks to it, it responds from inside his briefcase (I don't remember whether it has speech or not, but believe from the context that it understood its master), and when he's fished it out, it discusses the situation with communications circuitry built into the walls of the building, gives him a map to his flight, and tells him where the nearest drink might be found, as he has plenty of time....

It's not hard to see where this "dream" missed, nor where it was almost prescient. Computer generated speech is feasible, but most people don't want to listen, it's not like a friend's. And recognizing what we say, that's a lot harder, seems still a ways away on PCs, let alone handhelds. Anticipating our wants and needs? That seems to be the promise of software agents, but as they aren't a normal part of our lives, one can't be too sure yet.

The functionality of an organizer, yept, that was on target. And if we don't have one that will converse with the airport, we already have those who will listen to satellites, tell us right where we are; surely chatty public buildings aren't far away.


That's in the Hewlett Packard Personal Calculator Digest volume V 1979, which is on the HP Museum CD volume 4.


Thank you, Steve. I can see I'll have to start saving my pennies, buy a CD or a set.



A trip down memory lane! I had read the article shortly after I had gotten my HP41C, one of the first available in Greece (Vassilis, another frequent contributor to this forum, had gotten another).

The article reads like a cross between a sales brochure and an in-flight magazine (which makes perfect sense, actually, but really means that its literary value is pretty low, but is more amusing to read today than it was 23 years ago.

We are less than halfway to the time described in "Thank you, Beep!", but the only thing described there that we do not already have (and despite NASA and Boeing, may not have by 2050) is rocketliners. Natural language processing of the kind shown in the article is still way off (we're getting there, though), but the "gigabyte of memory" sounds puny, the screen is too small and looks like a CRT, the device is way too large sitting on Walter's hand, and today's devices sure don't need to be "slotted" in to do their work (I did like the use of the term "pulsed" to describe satellite communications, though). And anyone who thinks that a busy business traveller would want their PDA to talk to them in the voice of their spouse simply does not fly enough!

On the other hand, a modern frequent traveller would just go to their airline's lounge and let the people there handle everything!

Unfortunately, planes are still rerouted in 2050, baggage is lost (at least it is found again), and face-to-face meetings are still necessary. It doesn't look like we're goign to lick that one with technology!

ObFlame: Plus, of course, HP is not likely to be the manufacturer of such a device :-(

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