A life’s work…

What were you doing 20 year’s ago… and where will you be 20 years from now… and how is what you’re doing today going to get you there?

It’s not often you can see a direct line between aspects of your past with aspects of your present, and if you can, it’s not usually a direct “golden path”, more a meandering curve perturbed by major random events of one’s life.  Looking at the ‘biographies’ of great people it’s also rare to find such direct callings.  But recently I’ve seen video of such a journey.

Recently I’ve become obsessed with the TED videos.  Great talks by great people, which will leave you inspired…  The range of topics covered is amazing, as are the presentations themselves.  Microsoft unveiled it’s Photosynth (seadragon) technologies at one such talk, and if you look at a talk from a few years ago you can see where Microsoft’s Surface technologies came from, but Microsoft is just a minor player in the history of TED talks.  Other amazing ones include talks that introduce string theory, chronicling the spread of aids in Africa – and making remarkable predictions as to the epidemic’s future, coverage of news coverage, how to inspire creativity, amazing presentations on statistics of world economies- and how we can eliminate poverty with them.  One of the most thought provoking ones I’ve seen recently was about how the US needs to re-structure it’s military to handle situations like Iraq. (Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth supposedly came from his TED presentation)

So it was with some interest that I watched a video of a TED talk from 1984, by the the guy who would later create the One Laptop Per Child project (OLPC).  The OLPC project has recently become mired in infighting and bickering, but they’ve also recently unveiled plans for version 2.0.  The goal is to produce a small computer for children, that can replace Text books in remote and developing countries, as well as connect to the Internet so people from around the world can self teach… all for a budget of at or under $100 USD… Considering that countries like China and Brazil now spend on the order of ~$50 per child  for text books for children, this meta text book would be not that unfeasible.   Think of a hitchhiker’s guide but for school children.


Think about what’s being shown in this video, and when it was created.  In 1984 Steve Jobs introduced the world to the Macintosh.  A revolutionary computer that showed the world how to use a mouse, and the beginnings of digital video on a computer (the Mac’s famous Welcome screen), and really- it was most people’s introduction to a computer that could fit inside your house, let alone one that could fit on your desk.   The Internet, world wide web, and wikipedia weren’t even conceived of yet, but looking at that video we can see the start of hyer-linking, interactive learning, and touch based computing.  Don’t forget the touch based surface that that Microsoft Surface is based on was shown at TED in 2006… Yet here its shown in a video from 25 years ago!