I was in graduate school in the early 1990’s when I became interested in the emerging field of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). A core objective of HCI was to design novel technologies for humans to interact with computers.
To offer a flavor of the time for the uninitiated (or the young), we still revered the Internet enough to capitalize the first letter, access to it was pretty limited and email was a novelty. Usenet was de rigueur for online communities. William Gibson, my all time favorite novelist, was posting to alt.cyberpunk introducing enthusiasts to the concept of “jacking in” before the Matrix became a movie.
Then everything changed.
Steve, our CS department system administrator mentioned this thing called a World Wide Web Browser. He pointed me to the source code for Viola, which was a popular precursor to the later dominant Mosaic browser. I wasn’t sure I wanted the added work, but what really sold me was that he offered to increase my disk allowance from 8MB (yes, megabytes) to 64MB so I could run the build. There was no looking back.
Big Changes in Tech
It may seem that we see big technology events happen all the time. After all CES has been going on since the 1960’s, but some technologies are truly transformational.
I’ve been getting a distinct feeling of deja vu these days. I was interested enough in virtual currencies to have been impressed with the elegance the Satoshi Nakamoto paper and later lose some bitcoin on Mt Gox, but it was mostly out of scientific curiosity.
Then I noticed that people were building other apps on Bitcoin’s blockchain. Namecoin, this clever distributed domain name registration service that doesn’t actually have a centralized registrar extended Bitcoin. OpenBazaar, a distributed marketplace without a central authority reminded me of eBay. The Ethereum blockchain platform now allows me to add programming logic to assets, a lot like Netscape allowed me to add interesting behavior to web pages. These all seem like niche nerdy experiments. Until they’re not.
Although blockchains have become more visible in the last year or so, I believe we’re still witnessing the nascent beginnings of a significant technology shift. Sometimes called Web 3.0 decentralized blockchain applications could well bring us to a whole new world of opportunities.
Enjoy the ride.
- HCI – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human%E2%80%93computer_interaction
- Internet vs internet – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capitalization_of_%22Internet%22
- Neuromancer – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuromancer
- William Gibson, Usenet – http://usenetsearch.info/william+gibson/ , https://www.reddit.com/r/Cyberpunk/comments/4ylhg9/usenet_altcyberpunk/
- CES – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consumer_Electronics_Show
- Satoshi Nakamoto paper – https://bitcoin.org/bitcoin.pdf
- OpenBazaar – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenBazaar
- Namecoin – https://github.com/namecoin/namecoin-core, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Namecoin