Some things don’t change, and in computers, while it may look to be moving really fast, a lot of the ideas have been floating around for a while. Technology enables technology.
I read about the book “Coders at Work” which the author kindly posted up a few interviews online. Bill Gates has one from 1986 (found here). It really is a truly insightful read. Bare in mind that this is pre windows, and not just gui windows. Hell it is pre CD Rom.
While talking about 4k memory limits, the thoughts of 650meg of data accessible to a program must have seemed surreal. Our minds aren’t capable of understanding numbers like this anymore. Best way I can explain it is like moving from only having data available from your harddisk to having data available from a Google data centre.
One of parts that really hit home was when Bill Gates starts talking about what is a effectively a Google Maps mash up.
GATES: CD ROM is totally different. We hope with CD ROM you’ll be able to look at a map of the United States, point somewhere, click, zoom in and say, “Hey, what hotels are around here?” And the program will tell you.
Quotes like that really do show how far ahead he really was. The internet was only being born but here he is thinking on new ways to display data.
If 1986 can give thoughts that only come to live today, what ways will people start displaying data in the future. Sure todays BIG computer problem is more a data problem than a technical one.