background image
14 DigiCULT
ernment-funded university research centres played a
decisive role, `led 10 to 15 years later to the introduc-
tion of entirely new product categories that became
billion-dollar industries'. This is visualised in the form
of `tire-track charts', diagrams that show the com-
plex interplay of university research and industry
RTD, some of the concurrent, mutually reinforcing
advances in multiple subfields and, most importantly,
`the long, unpredictable incubation period requir-
ing steady work and funding between initial explo-
ration and commercial deployment'.
11
The diagrams also give indications of when com-
mercial products became available and when a one
billion dollar market was reached. These include,
among others, Reduced Instruction Set Compu-
ter (RISC) processors, parallel computing, relational
and parallel databases, client/server computing, LANs,
Internet, portable communication, graphics, and
speech recognition.
S
OME
OF
THE
FUTURE
IN
ICT
IS
ALREADY
WITH
US
I
n an article entitled `Forward into the Past',
12
Bill
Buxton, a renowned `veteran' IT researcher and
designer of technologies that support creative activ-
ities, points out `that most of what passes for new
at any given time has in fact been around for quite
a while. Or, to steal a line from the science-fiction
writer William Gibson, "The future is already here.
It is just not uniformly distributed".'
To illustrate this, Buxton gives several examples.
One is the following: `The now ubiquitous com-
puter mouse also took a poky path to market. The
first model was built in 1964 by Doug Engelbart
and William English, of the Stanford Research Insti-
tute in Menlo Park, Calif. By the early 1970s, many
of us at Xerox PARC had become point-and-click
fans, using state-of-the-art Alto computers. But
beyond that little world, few people were aware of
the device until Steve Jobs unveiled the Apple Mac-
intosh in 1984. It took Microsoft's Windows 95 to
take the mouse mainstream -- some 30 years after
its invention. The commercialization of research,
in other words, is far more about prospecting than
alchemy.'
Pointing also to the results of the US National
Research Council book on Innovation in Information
Technologies, he states: `All this suggests that the tech-
nologies that will significantly affect our lives over
the next 10 years have been around for a decade. The
future is with us (or at least some of us). The trick is
learning how to spot it.'
11
The diagrams are to be
found at: http://books.nap.
edu/html/innovation_in_
IT/ch1_f1.html
12
Bill Buxton, "Forward
into the Past" in TIME
Magazine: Visions of
Tomorrow. Special Report,
Vol. 164, No. 15, 11
October 2004. http://
www.time.com/time/cov-
ers/1101041011/nextessay.
html#; http://www.
billbuxton.com
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