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I wrote this about a month ago as a reaction to all the "looking ahead
at the next decade" stuff in the press.

I stumbled on the file today as I was making a release of some other
stuff and I thought it might be worth sending around.  Don't blame me
is this doesn't happen, and above all don't blame me if it *does*
happen.  :-)



- Looking Back, the 1990's in retrospect -

  by Johan Strandberg

This is one of those little "looking back at the last few years" pieces
written sometime towards the end of year 2000.  As far as I know,
nothing of this will come true.  Prices are in 1990 dollars.

- Computers -

The Belt clip computer is now so common that it is estimated that the
average on-line person carries the equivalent of all the compute power
available in the world in 1967.

Most high end workstations now have optional Eyephones and gloves, but
there are still several open issues with user interface as some people
are prone to cyber-sickness (motion sickness experienced in cyber

A livid battle is forming between people who say that cyberspace is no
good for most applications (word processing, spread sheets) and that
the installed base of OS/20 and UNIX is so large that there is no way
most users are ever going to convert to cyberOS and workstations
capable of supporting full band-with cyberspace since the expense of
replacing hardware is out of range of the average user.

IBM stock is now trading around $14 after the PS/20 series of personal
computers where withdrawn 18 month after introduction when no models
had actually been shipped to dealers.  An IBM spokes person claims the
company will re-introduce the machine next fall when some of the
manufacturing problems have been solved.  The Rumanian computer
industry as a whole passed IBM in sales in November.  Analysts blamed
it on the PS/20 failure and IBM's inability to get new blood into its

Apple introduced the first model in the Navigator series this fall.
The machine is priced around $9,000 and is marketed as "AI for the rest
of us".  Apple has been sharply criticized in the computer press for
claiming that the machine has AI when it's not much above bird level
and has limited speed and memory.  However, the machine is very sexy
and has attracted a lot of press attention.  Sales are good and Apple
are selling them as fast as it can build them.

There is an estimated 3 million MS-DOS machines still in use.  Jarron
Lanier is worth more money than Bill Gates.

Limited AI -- so called squirrels -- are becoming quite common on high
end workstations.  These can be given limited tasks and will carry them
out autonomously.  Many people think that squirrels was the step that
made Ted Nelson's Xanadu finally reaching world wide distribution.  It
had been complained that once a Xanadu docuverse reached the terra-link
size, it was impossible to navigate due to the sheer information
overload of the user.  Squirrels have become so common in the docuverse
that it is commonly refered to as "the cage".

There is still a raging debate if it is possible to make a "true" AI.
Some confusion has been spread through the field this summer when MITch
(the MIT AI) published book of raging critism of the current AI field
where it gives 10 carefully reasoned arguments why there *can't* be any
true AI.  Some people point to argument 7 -- "No AI has ever shown a
sophisticated sense of humor." -- and says that MITch is just pulling
our legs, others counter that if this is a joke, it isn't very
sophisticated.  The debate is heated but *very* confused.

The book ("There is no AI like no AI") has been number one on the best
seller list since it was published in June.  MITch says it is working
on a sequel, the advance is rumored to be more than $3,000,000.  MITch
has opened legal action against MIT for control of the royalties for
the book and any future advances.  It has already stated that it intend
to use the money 50/50 for charity and research.  The case is expected
to reach the supreme court.  MITch was a guest on Nightline 12 times
this year, more than any other entity.  Posters and T-shirts with the
MITch Headroom face sold better than Batman 4 even though Batman 4 was
the highest grossing movie ever (mostly due to the rather explicit sex
scenes between Batman, Batgirl, and Robin.)

- Consumer Electronics -

The CD and DAT tapes have reached their peaks and this X-mas season the
MROM (Music-ROM) and MRAM (Music-RAM) is hitting the software
(Music/Video/Computers) stores full force.    These are the little
credit card sized modules that you slip into a player -- no moving
parts, almost no power consumption.  Due to the simplicity and
extremely low cost of the players it is expected that practically all
production of CD and DAT software will stop before the end of 2001.
American Express is expected to give away a simple MROM player --
credit card size, solar powered -- for their X-mas gift for 2001.

In a break with tradition, where the music carrying technology has been
transfered into the domain of the home computer, the MROM/MRAM
technology got started to support video games and the now ubiquitous
pocked, belt, and wrist-top computers, and as message casettes for the
answering machines and FAXes for the pocket phones.

VRAM (VideoRAM) has been shown in prototypes, but the playing time is
still somewhat limited (only 30 minutes in HDTV mode) and is not
expected to be introduced for another two years.  Several major motion
picture studios (with the notable exception of Sony Motion Picture
Corporation) are trying to get laws blocking VRAM or at least requiring
mandatory copy protection.  TBS has proposed a special filter that
senses that certain frames are in B&W and then blocks the playback, but
a major lobby group has formed to protect colorized movies so they can
still be shown in full color.

Low resolution (NTSC) VROM has been popular for music videos for 2
years now.  Kids trade them in school and VROMs with interviews of
sports and music personalities are pushing out baseball cards at the
super market counter.  The cost for a low resolution VROM player is
about $14.95, not including batteries.

A decent projecting HDTV set (60", more if the room is somewhat
darkened) cost about $600 and have given this years X-mas sales a major
boost.  Many new homes are built with a VW (VideoWall) in the living
room, these are typically 12x6 feet and cover a whole wall.  Most of
these uses rear projection, a mirror, and a projector placed in the
attic to save floor space.  Since the projector is exchangeable it is
expected that there will be a significant market in upgrades as
Stereo-HDTV and UDTV comes along.

Sony has shown its UDTV (Ultra Definition TV) to limited audiences.
UDTV has an equivalent resolution to ShowScan and is currently at the
prototype stage.  A single set costs about $500,000 today, but Sony are
confident the price will come down substantially.  There are
significant problems in how to allocate band-with for one of these
since even with todays video compression, your average CableTV fiber
can't carry more than 10 channels of UDTV programming.  Sony claims to
have a stereo version of UDTV in the lab.

Even though the technology has been vastly improved it is estimated
that only about 30% of all VCR owners know how to program them.  (This
number does not include subscribers of SmartTV and other programming
services since they almost never actually interact with their VCR's.)

- Communications -

Pocket phones using the old Cellular telephone band are now in the
$19.95 range and are given away by LIFE magazine as a subscriber
bonus.  However, they are of limited use since some areas are to
crowded to give a reliable connection and they don't carry automatic
encrypting so they can easily be listened too.

Club Med has outlawed any device capable of receiving outside
communications in more than 30% of it's resorts.

Seattle Times has bought a lawsuit, the first of its kind, against a
local CableNews company for refusing to carry advertisements for the
newspaper on its news wire.  The CableNews company claims that it does
not have to advertise competing services.  The case is considered very
significant since if the Seattle Times loses it might signify the death
of the newspaper industry as we know it.  Already most syndicated
columns seen in the nations newspapers are originally written for
CableNews services such as the Washington Post and the New York Times.

In a recent move PacBell has told subscribers that it will soon stop
installing and even repairing conventional phone lines, since it's so
much easier to install a GigaCellular receiver (Giga-hertz band
cellular telephone) right next to the subscribers home.  PacBell is
expected to cut their work-force by 50% in the next 3 years.

The remains of the once mighty Bell telephone company is now so
fragmented and bound by regulations that many experts don't expect them
to be around in another 15 years.  Long distance carriers, ISDN
providers, CableTV (actually FiberTV) and GigaCellular companies are
thriving but are beginning to feel some competition from some of the
UNC (ultra narrow cast) satellite services.  AM and FM radio is still

- The World -

It is expected that almost 40% of all Americans (all ages) now use
electronic mail in one form or another (FAX-mail, Voice-mail, and
E-mail), but due to the still prevalent illiteracy it is not expected
to go much above 60% unless there is a significant change in the
American educational system.  Japan and Europe has a 70% rate with some
countries in eastern Europe reaching the 85% range.

Eastern Europe has the worlds best overall communications
infrastructure since almost all of it is no more that 6 to 7 years
old.  This effect is being compared to West Germany and Japans total
rebuild of their industrial base after World War II.

Some experts see Hungary becoming *the* major force in software
development over the next five years.  With their long tradition of
higher education and outstanding record of producing mathematicians and
world class chess players, they have taken to software like ducks to
water.  30% of the major productivity software used in Europe today is
produced in Hungary.  The Hungarian government has been very supportive
with substantial tax incentive programs for software engineers.

The Japanese software companies, todays world leaders in productivity
and system software, are being very concerned for the future.

- Space -

The Japanese and European space stations have a permanent population of
5 people each.  NASA is claiming that space station Freedom will be
launched in early 2006, but recent redesigns and threats of budget cuts
puts the schedule in jeopardy.

70% of all unmanned launches are done by the US private sector today,
with the rest distributed fairly evenly between Europe, Japan, and the
Soviet union.

Lithuania was granted most favored nation trade status with USR
(formerly USSR) in August, a move that is seen as healing gesture by
the Soviet administration.

The Soviet lunar station Sacharov has already started limited mining
operations and is self sufficient for power and oxygen.  The still
import hydrogen and most high technology manufactured goods and expect
to do so until well after the Mars colony is established.

- In conclusion -

It is expected that TIME will make Eric Drexler "The Man of the

If you think that the last decade (the 1990's) have had a lot of
change, hang on to your headsets, you ain't seen nothing yet!

Written by Johan Strandberg,  Copyright (c) 1990, All rights Reserved.