Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Computer as a Communication Device

My predecessor left me a bunch of articles about all kinds of technology/library issues. That is cool, but since I don't know what he left me, I decided to make a spreadsheet of the articles. A catalog, if you will. Hee.

So, I'm going through the folders and what do I find, but J.C.R. Licklider's "The Computer as a Communication Device." (warning: it's a pdf) A veritable classic in our field, akin to Vannevar Bush's Memex machine.
So of course I read it (again). And was struck by the ending paragraphs (again). At the end of the article, Licklider paints this utopian computer world for us, where "life will be happier...communication will be more effective and productive...communication and interaction will be with programs and programmed models...and...there will be plenty of opportunity for everyone (who can afford a console) to find his calling, for the whole world of information...will be open to him."

Aside: I love that he puts the caveat of being wealthy in there, in order to benefit from this greatness.

Licklider was a little....eccentric. And, from the looks of it, a utopian. I find it very amusing that he assumes all information and all computing will always be for the higher ideal of creating and supporting learning. I find this especially amusing considering how much of the internet is useful only for wasting time.

But consider his ideal--it's beautiful, in its own way. Everyone learning, everyone making connections. Of course he's a little off in a lot of places...such as assuming that employment will disappear because there will be so much work in adapting network software to the new generations of computers (he never imagines that businesspeople will find a more efficient way of handling this problem). But still, the ideal of making information freely available, AND FINDABLE, is a really nice thought. Unfortunately for us, it still hasn't happened yet. Maybe it never will?

Then I look at the actual title of Licklider's article--The Computer as a Communication Device. He was right about that part.

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"Wicked people never have time for reading. It's one of the reasons for their wickedness." —Lemony Snicket, The Penultimate Peril.