Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 28th Jul 2011 20:50 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless I've kind of painted myself in a corner with that headline, because I never anticipated I would need another preview article for this project. However, thanks to all your comments on both the site and through email, the scope of this project has grown considerably. As part of this growing scope, I'm acquiring more and more devices, and yesterday, I managed to score a phone which, while almost forgotten by most of the rest of the technology press, contained two very important firsts. Not only was this the first phone with a capacitive touch screen, it was also the first phone with an interface design from the ground-up for finger/touch input. Say hello to the LG KE850, better known as the LG Prada.
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Oldie Goldies
by fretinator on Thu 28th Jul 2011 21:32 UTC
fretinator
Member since:
2005-07-06

I have a Tandy PC-8 pocket computer. At one time, I had a Tandy PC-6, the gold standard of pocket computers! Of course I have a programmable HP calculator from way back.

Also I have a Pocket PC - no, a REAL Pocket PC, one of the DOS ones that runs Microsoft Works for DOS from ROM. I think it is called the Voyager. It has 2 Type I pcmcia slots on the bottom for RAM cards. It's about the size of my Libretto. Oh, yeah, the Libretto, WAY ahead of the game in the Netbook craze. I run OpenBSD on the Libretto, with an old Microsoft pcmcia wireless card. It was fun taking notes with the Libretto in class while others had their fancy laptops.

Oh, it is a dangerous game you are playing Mr. Holwerda!

Reply Score: 4

RE: Oldie Goldies
by MOS6510 on Fri 29th Jul 2011 12:47 UTC in reply to "Oldie Goldies"
MOS6510 Member since:
2011-05-12
Comment by Abdullah
by Abdullah on Thu 28th Jul 2011 21:38 UTC
Abdullah
Member since:
2005-07-06

I stumbled across this the other day, and was quite surprised:

http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/people/bibuxton/buxtoncollec...

Psion were also a pioneer with touchscreen phones (they produced projects with Ericsson running EPOC, the predecessor of Symbian. Acorn also had a tablet called the Newspad in the mid 90s, but it never came to market.

Reply Score: 2

Comment by shmerl
by shmerl on Thu 28th Jul 2011 21:48 UTC
shmerl
Member since:
2010-06-08

LG even claimed that Apple copied their ideas:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LG_Prada_%28KE850%29#iPhone_co...

Edited 2011-07-28 21:49 UTC

Reply Score: 4

Dont forget the p910i from 2004
by Beta on Thu 28th Jul 2011 22:48 UTC
Beta
Member since:
2005-07-06

Thom,
I do hope you cover my phone (launched summer 2004), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sony_Ericsson_P910
If you took the keypad off, (this was a feature, they included a cover in ever box), it was the phone many of these smartphones would become…
I would bore people to death about how the future was being able to sit at bowling and get on wikipedia, and send emails.. ha, they thought I was mad.

It even had natively installable apps on day one, ’cause it was Symbian. Eat that 2007 iPhone that only supported web apps. I stopped using it at the start of 2010 - was waiting for a decent Android device, and the HTC Desire was that.

Reply Score: 2

stabbyjones Member since:
2008-04-15

I wanted that phone soooo bad!

Reply Score: 2

meerrettich Member since:
2010-11-08

So what about Newton then?

Reply Score: 1

Beta Member since:
2005-07-06

Whenever was that a phone?

Reply Score: 2

Bill Shooter of Bul Member since:
2006-07-14

Pfft. The Danger Hiptop ( aka Tmobile sidekick) had apps and a market to buy apps in 2003. Oh ... and the founder went on to found a different Mobile operating system called Android. While danger was swallowed up by microsoft ... resulting in the worlds most popular phones ever the Kin 1 and the Kin 2!

Reply Score: 3

Beta Member since:
2005-07-06

Pfft. The Danger Hiptop ( aka Tmobile sidekick) had apps and a market to buy apps in 2003.


It’s the whole package of the p910 I am arguing for ;)

Don’t think I have ever seen a Hiptop, was it US only? I only know about it from knowledge of Danger.

Reply Score: 2

Comment by meerrettich
by meerrettich on Fri 29th Jul 2011 02:37 UTC
meerrettich
Member since:
2010-11-08

After Apple unveiled the iPhone, LG's Woo-Young Kwak, who headed its Mobile Handset R&D Center, called a press conference and stated, "we consider that Apple copied the Prada phone after the design was unveiled when it was presented in the iF Design Award and won the prize in September 2006."

The company didn't file a lawsuit however. LG had already shown an affinity for Apple's designs, changing its LG Chocolate phone for the US market to resemble a classic iPod.

http://i.imgur.com/RwRZK.jpg

Reply Score: 2

Ahhh Nostalgia...
by Morgan on Fri 29th Jul 2011 03:28 UTC
Morgan
Member since:
2005-06-29

After reading this and then re-reading the original post, I've been inspired to dig out my old Zaurus SL-5500. Sadly, it appears the battery is toast, as it won't charge or power up at all, even with the A/C adaptor still plugged in. Now I'm on a quest to get a new battery, so I can bring this dinosaur to life and screw around with it again.

I never really got much use out of it even in the old days; it was mostly a mobile "snapshot" of my /home directory that I could whip out to make a few small changes or reference a file. Nowadays I accomplish that with my Android phone and Dropbox. But, it's still a neat little (well, big) device with a potential for fun hacking.

In fact, I'm envisioning using it to SSH into my home desktop to do some remote utility work, especially since it has a physical keyboard that is faster than the touch screen on the Android. That way I don't have to drag out the big laptop or resort to pecking away on a screen while cursing Autocorrect as it mangles my commands.

Of course, all of this is academic if the battery isn't the gremlin, but I know when I stored the unit years ago the battery was on its way out. We shall see!

Reply Score: 2

Comment by MOS6510
by MOS6510 on Fri 29th Jul 2011 08:15 UTC
MOS6510
Member since:
2011-05-12

I have at home (where I am very far away from, so I do 't know any brand or type) a pocketwatch that can be docked on to a little keyboard with a printer that allows you to use it as a screen and program in BASIC.

I also have another keyboard with no printer.

The problem is the watch doesn't communicate with either. It's some kind of induction system, but I can't get it to work. The printer does work, it keeps printing communication error.

Apparenlty it's pretty rare, even more outside Japan.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Comment by MOS6510
by MOS6510 on Fri 29th Jul 2011 08:39 UTC in reply to "Comment by MOS6510"
MOS6510 Member since:
2011-05-12

Not allowed to edit, so:

It's a Seiko UC-2002:

http://pocketcalculatorshow.com/nerdwatch/fun2.html

Reply Score: 2

v Comment by MOS6510
by MOS6510 on Fri 29th Jul 2011 08:19 UTC
RE: Comment by MOS6510
by Phucked on Fri 29th Jul 2011 09:38 UTC in reply to "Comment by MOS6510"
Phucked Member since:
2008-09-24

^^^ I will have what he his smoking Miss!

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Comment by MOS6510
by MOS6510 on Fri 29th Jul 2011 12:45 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by MOS6510"
MOS6510 Member since:
2011-05-12

Show the Prada to x people and I wonder how many will think it's an iPhone.

The colors are different, the button shapes/positions are different, the front doesn't look the same apart from the speaker. Turn both on and they will look even more different.

People's faces are much more the same, same number of eyes, ears, nose, mouth, all in the same position. So Brad Pitt and I look almost the same to you and millions of women.

Reply Score: 0

RE[3]: Comment by MOS6510
by Gusar on Fri 29th Jul 2011 16:46 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by MOS6510"
Gusar Member since:
2010-07-16

And how is that different than when comparing the iPhone to Android phones?

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: Comment by MOS6510
by MOS6510 on Fri 29th Jul 2011 19:00 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by MOS6510"
MOS6510 Member since:
2011-05-12

I am not known to do those kind of comparisons.

I prefer to look at the icons and gui and some Android ones do look a lot like the iPhone's.

In this case it's about one side of 2 phones and a bit of the front. Both are blackish and have a silverish thingy. That's what they have in common plus the shape of the speaker.

However it's not the same kinds of black/silver and the buttons are like I said totally different in more than one way.

When a product makes you doubt what it is I'd say your in danger of ripping off a design. This phone in no way makes my conjure up thoughts of an iPhone 4.

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: Comment by MOS6510
by Bill Shooter of Bul on Fri 29th Jul 2011 18:45 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by MOS6510"
Bill Shooter of Bul Member since:
2006-07-14

Sort of remind me of Vanilla Ice's contention that the background of Ice ice baby wasn't a rip off of Queen's Under Pressure.

http://mcconda.com/2011/04/01/special-edition-%E2%80%9C...

Reply Score: 3

Psion
by henderson101 on Fri 29th Jul 2011 09:56 UTC
henderson101
Member since:
2006-05-30

You need some Psion love in your article. Difficult to place the Psion, the earlier models didn't have any touch screens, the later models did though. They were full on PDA's though.

I'd also point you towards the Zaurus. Not the Linux based Sl5500 and later, the original Japanese only variants. They were doing crazy PDA based things at the same time as the western PDA's, possibly earlier.

Save yourself the disappointment and get (at bare minimum) a Newton MP2000. The MessagePad 110, 120 and 130 are useless, outdated and very very sloooow. If I still had my MessagePad 120, I'd send you it, but I sold it for about £8 a couple of years back. The MP2000 still goes for a song on eBay, so good luck!

Reply Score: 2

Newton and/or eMate...
by Riba on Fri 29th Jul 2011 10:13 UTC
Riba
Member since:
2006-02-12

Thom, if you want, I got a Newton (not 2000 though) and/or eMate 300 I can send you way.
Also an NCR 3130 Pen computer from 1991. ;)

Reply Score: 1

Comment by Tony Swash
by Tony Swash on Fri 29th Jul 2011 10:16 UTC
Tony Swash
Member since:
2009-08-22

Sorry about the length of this comment but given the complexity of the issues under discussion brevity is hard. I have split the comment into tow sections to get around length restrictions but it should be read as one piece.

Thom I love the archaeology of devices you are proposing to do and look forward to what new information you dig up. My comments here are just meant as a constructive contribution.

How should one think about the relationship between different bits of technology, about how they relate about how they develop, about which came first and about their relative importance? It struck me that that another field of thought, that to do with how living things and species are related, provides a useful way to do this.

When scientists try to arrange species in some sort of order they often do so through the metaphor of a tree. All living things area related, you, and I, and a cow, and a soya bean all share some genes and at some very distant point in the past we shared a common ancestor. As times passes and species develop they branch into new species and branch again into yet more new species. This process of branching produces a model of the development and emergence of species over time that looks a lot like a tree and in placing an individual species on that tree it is important to get it on the right branch and in the right place before or after the other species on the same branch. Using this model it is also possible to see which were significant branching events leading to the development of a whole cluster of new species (branches) and which were less significant and led to few decendents.

This model also helps avoid errors caused by the superficial similarity of species which are actually distantly related and the even more confusing fact that similar ecological pressures and opportunities often leads to the development of very similar species which have not developed from one another (the marsupial wolf looked and behaved almost identically to the old world wolf but they both had different ancestors and simply evolved simultaneously on completely different branches of the evolutionary tree). When similar species do develop the tree metaphor also allows one to work out which species was more important in evolutionary terms, i.e. which species was the direct ancestor to the most subsequent new species.

One big advantage of using this tree metaphor in relation to technological developments is that it tries to sidestep the fierce brand loyalties and phobias that seem to arise in the discussion of technology and starts with the prime acceptance that all technology is related if you go back far enough. New technologies like living species do not magically pop into existence, they are all branching mutations building on prior species. What is also true is that ecological pressure and the particular stage of development of technology can cause similar technologies to simultaneously develop at the same time (i.e. new branches starting to grow at the same time side by side on the tree) and that some branches are more significant than others simply in that they lead to more new branches. Another useful metaphor we can use is that of adaption. Once one species mutates others are forced to do so (when the predators legs get longer so must the prey), this is not a question of copying or imitation but of tracing back a history of development to try to identify the key branching events, the ones that pushed the whole ecosystem forward into new changes.

Using this tree model you can see that the Mac GUI was a branching development from the Xerox GUI at Palo Alto. The Xerox GUI was the immediate ancestor of the Mac GUI but the Mac was a new species and therefore a new branch. It is also clear using this model that the desktop GUI's that came after the Mac, especially the overwhelmingly dominant one which was Windows, developed from the Mac branch and not directly from the Xerox branch. Microsoft was trying to copy the Mac and not the Altos, the Mac was Windows immediate ancestor although the Altos was a more distant ancestor (this is very clear if you read Microsoft insider account of the development of Windows such as the one by Marlin Eller). So both the Altos and Mac were both important branching events, and the Mac branching event could not have occurred without the Altos branching event, but no subsequent GUI developed directly from the Altos all developed via the Mac.

How does this apply to smart phone OS's?

Edited 2011-07-29 10:24 UTC

Reply Score: 4

Part 2
by Tony Swash on Fri 29th Jul 2011 10:17 UTC
Tony Swash
Member since:
2009-08-22

How does this apply to smart phone OS's?

Using the metaphors of the evolutionary tree you can see that the ancestors of the modern smart phone included the Apple Newton (which is probably a branching event) and the original Palm PDA OS (which may have been a branching event). There are other ancestors such as the various keyboard and menu driven OS such the Blackberry. It is also clear that around 2007 a very significant branching event took place. After 2007 smartphone operating systems began to look completely different, old characteristics such as menus, styluses and key boards begin to wither and die out, and the large screen touch driven model begins to dominate and branch into many different species. Around 2007 a general field of mutations began to occur across the whole smart phone ecosystem.

So what was the branching event? Thom puts forward the idea that the LG Prada was the branching event but I am not convinced, how did the LG Prada cause the general field of mutations in the smart phone ecosystem? Was it directly copied?

It seems unlikely that that Apple copied the LG Prada as by the time the details and images of the device were released in December 2006 the development of of Apple's iOS was feature complete (it was throughly demoed in working order in January 2007). The LG Prada was shown earlier at the iF Design Award and won the prize in September 2006 (I cannot find any details about the amount of details about the the LG Prada revealed at that time in September 2006 - if anyone has such details I would love to hear about) but it is reasonable to assume that the development process of iOS was in a late stage by late 2006. Apple had bought Fingerworks in early 2005 to obviously work on the touch interface and there has never been the slightest suggestion or leak that Apple reset the iOS model late in its development as a possible response to the limited amount of information made publicly available in the second half of 2006 about the LG Prada.

It seems to me that the overwhelmingly likely hypothesis is of parallel convergence of design caused by similar ecological pressures and opportunities in the tech eco system. As we have seen from the world of living species it is not only possible but common for very similar appearing species to develop at the same time but for them not to be closely related to each other.

Did companies other than Apple copy the LG Prada? I have seen no evidence that this happened and it is worth bearing in mind that copying in the tech ecosystem is usually the result of aping success. The LG Prada sold one million units in it's first 18 months. The iPhone sold 13 million in the first 18 months and the iPhones sales were clearly accelerating. Again it seems plausible to me that the other handset makers were trying emulate Apple's success and to fend off competition from Apple rather than from the LG Prada.

So I propose that the iPhone was the key branching mutation that caused the general field of mutations in the smart phone ecosystem after 2007. Of course the key mechanism that facilitated this general field of mutations was Android and it is fairly clear that a major reset of Android's design did take place after the iPhone launch. This was how the early versions of Android looked before the impact of the release of the iPhone

http://www.engadget.com/2007/11/12/a-visual-tour-of-androids-ui/

It looks nothing like the way Android looked when it was finally released and it looks nothing like the modern large touch screen interface as used by the LG Prada and the iPhone. Again I can see no evidence and no logic to arguing that the Android design reset was precipitated by the release of the LG Prada rather than by the release of the iPhone.

So to sum up my view is that the LG Prada and the iPhone were both more less simultaneous branching events, both were the result of the exploitation of the same opportunities arising in the smart phone technology ecosystem. Neither copied each other, both were uniquely and separately developed. Both drew on what went before.

However the LG Prada branch was an evolutionary dead end, there were no subsequent branching events on the new LG Prada branch, it led nowhere. On the other hand the iPhone branch did lead to very significant subsequent branching events, the most significant being Android, which led to a rich proliferation of new smart phone (and later tablet) species.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Part 2
by Thom_Holwerda on Fri 29th Jul 2011 10:20 UTC in reply to "Part 2"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

Short reply since I'm very busy at the moment: the LG Prada, obviously, isn't the or even a key device in the touch/finger era. It is, however, the first device. There's little to no discussion that the iPhone is the key device in this era.

Comparison: in the pen era, the Newton was the Prada, the Palm Pilot the iPhone.

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Part 2
by henderson101 on Fri 29th Jul 2011 13:03 UTC in reply to "RE: Part 2"
henderson101 Member since:
2006-05-30

+ 1 on that.

I remember the Prada, but I remember it being marketed as a ladies phone, in the UK at least. IIRC the "Prada" was related to the clothing brand?

I believe the iPhone UI has more to do with the PalmOS UI (which itself spawned hundreds of duplicates such as Qtopia, Windows Mobile, VT-OS) which was kind of based on the Newton (though the Newton does not have a "launcher" app per se, so that is kind of disrespectful to Palm. The Newton had a pop-up app list that kind of looks lik the the iconic PalmOS 1.x/2.x launcher, and there were tabbed third party launchers for PalmOS 2.x that are a lot like the iOS. Just no dock. The dock is another bone of contention, as both Next *and* Acorn had a dock like element in their OS well before it was a well known feature... arguments begin when ever either side claims the genesis of the idea.

Another PDA you should look for: Vtech Helio - which was an absolute rip off of the Palm devices, but has a completely open source OS and is both cool, geeky and really hard to find at a reasonable price - http://www.linuxfordevices.com/c/a/Linux-For-Devices-Articles/Devic...

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Part 2
by lucas_maximus on Fri 29th Jul 2011 19:29 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Part 2"
lucas_maximus Member since:
2009-08-18

I remember the Prada, but I remember it being marketed as a ladies phone, in the UK at least. IIRC the "Prada" was related to the clothing brand?


you are correct I remember the adverts.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Part 2
by tyrone on Fri 29th Jul 2011 23:49 UTC in reply to "Part 2"
tyrone Member since:
2011-07-29

the development of the iphone startet in the area 2003-2004 when the device myorigo was show'n to the public.

2003:

http://www.mobileburn.com/review.jsp?Id=547

2007:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-FlAg3YYXA

or do you remember this one?

http://www.hpl.hp.com/downloads/crl/itsy/index.html

and for the history there was also s branch after the xerox gui in europe;

http://www.ethistory.ethz.ch/rueckblicke/departemente/dinfk/forschu...

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Part 2
by Tony Swash on Sat 30th Jul 2011 10:03 UTC in reply to "RE: Part 2"
Tony Swash Member since:
2009-08-22

the development of the iphone startet in the area 2003-2004 when the device myorigo was show'n to the public.

2003:

http://www.mobileburn.com/review.jsp?Id=547

2007:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-FlAg3YYXA

or do you remember this one?

http://www.hpl.hp.com/downloads/crl/itsy/index.html

and for the history there was also s branch after the xerox gui in europe;

http://www.ethistory.ethz.ch/rueckblicke/departemente/dinfk/forschu...


Not sure I can see the significance of the stuff in these links?

One of the points I was making was that one should not obsess about the forensic search for the first development (or in this case proto-development) of any given technological feature or characteristic but instead look at the actual development of the technology davelopmental evolutionary tree. What actually led to what? What had an actual impact in the ecosystem?

Using my suggested use of the conceptual framework from the study of the relationship and evolution of living creatures one could draw this analogy. When scientists unearth fossils they sometimes come across one with features which when grouped with other features in later species led to a major mutation in a whole range of species across a whole ecosystem. But often characteristics appear and disappear as species rise and fall. What is most important is what species actually had a big impact, what actually led to changes in the ecosystem, what species led directly on to new species.

The first appearance of feathers in the fossil record is interesting. But what matters is when the first bird appeared.

The various curiosities you link to are just that - technological curiosities. They led nowhere. Nothing was directly developed from them. One cannot link them directly to any later and significant developments.

Mildly interesting but not useful in reconstructing the key events and milestones in the evolution of technology.

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Part 2
by _txf_ on Sat 30th Jul 2011 10:31 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Part 2"
_txf_ Member since:
2008-03-17


The first appearance of feathers in the fossil record is interesting. But what matters is when the first bird appeared.


You're trying to say that one day a bird just plopped out from nowhere?

It is hard to make analogies with tech and biological evolution simply because tech evolution is not governed natural selection; It is after all intelligent design and characteristics of a device can come from many different evolutionary trees . Also biological evolution happens extremely slowly and gradually.

Besides can you honestly claim that nobody was influenced by these devices. Just because they were not popular, it doesn't mean that they had no impact whatsoever.

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: Part 2
by Tony Swash on Sat 30th Jul 2011 15:28 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Part 2"
Tony Swash Member since:
2009-08-22

"
The first appearance of feathers in the fossil record is interesting. But what matters is when the first bird appeared.


You're trying to say that one day a bird just plopped out from nowhere?

It is hard to make analogies with tech and biological evolution simply because tech evolution is not governed natural selection; It is after all intelligent design and characteristics of a device can come from many different evolutionary trees . Also biological evolution happens extremely slowly and gradually.

Besides can you honestly claim that nobody was influenced by these devices. Just because they were not popular, it doesn't mean that they had no impact whatsoever.
"
Please. It would be ridiculous to suggest that a bird just popped out from nowhere - I am not a creationist!

What I am saying is that if you find a fossil of species that, say, has feathers and which then goes extinct it does not mean that it necessarily was an ancestor of the eventually emerging bird. The cluster of characteristics that we associate with 'birdness' can appear in earlier species with out those early species actually being related to the bird species that finally emerges. The reason for using this comparison of the development of technologies to the development of living species is to focus not on the design process per se but on the notion of evolutionary trees, of branches of direct development, of evolutionary dead ends and of what constitutes an ancestor or descendant technology.

so for example the computer system and GUI in this link

http://www.ethistory.ethz.ch/rueckblicke/departemente/dinfk/forschu...

is interesting. But the question is does it have any relevance to piecing together the genealogy of later technologies and in particular the spread of GUI through out the personal computer world? I would say no it had no relevance because there is not the slightest evidence, that I am ware of that, it had any influence on any of the designs of subsequent generations of computers. It influenced no one, it left no direct descendants, it was an evolutionary dead end.

By comparison the Xerox Altos did directly influence the design of a subsequent and significant new generation (new species) of PC - the Macintosh. Not only did Apple licence Xerox technology but many of the key people from Xerox went to work at Apple and had a major role in the design of the Lisa and the Macintosh. As far as I know there are no other other direct descendant from the Xerox Altos other than the Mac. I have found no evidence that any other PC or OS design team visited Xerox or were so directly influenced by the Altos as was the Mac design team. The Mac was the new species that then precipitated the major branching event which led to the eventual dominance of the GUI in the desktop PC ecosystem, first through the mainstreaming of the GUI via a mass marketed desktop PC with a GUI then through the influence the Mac GIU had over the development of Windows the OS that went on to dominate the desktop ecosystem. Windows was an indirect ancestor of the Xerox Altos but a direct descendant of the Mac. If you read the various insider accounts of the early days at Microsoft building up to the release of Windows 3.1 you again and again come across the consciously expressed desire of Bill Gates to copy and build on what the Mac had done - not what the Xerox Altos had done (the best insider book I have read on this is 'Barbarians Led by Bill Gates' by Jennifer Edstrom and Marlin Eller).

I suppose what I am cautioning against is the use of forensic research of past, and often obscure, technology episodes, to find characteristics or clusters of characteristics, that later appear in truly significant branching events in technology development and then saying 'aha' the significant branching event was not that significant after all because such and such came earlier. If previous designs and innovations didn't actually influence anyone that came later then they become at best mildly interesting curiosities. They don't tell us much about the key events in the development of technology.

Reply Score: 2

RE[5]: Part 2
by earksiinni on Sat 30th Jul 2011 16:02 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Part 2"
earksiinni Member since:
2009-03-27

There are many paths to establishing historical causality. You mention one in the case of Xerox and Apple, that there's a professional carry over between the employee rolls of the two companies, but it's impossible to rule out all sorts of other influences. For example, two separate but similar systems may have emerged from the same zeitgeist or cultural values, or even--as in the case with Newton and Leibniz and who invented calculus--from working on the same problems concurrently. That one appeared one, five, or even ten years after another doesn't necessarily imply that the latter followed from the former or conversely that they are totally unrelated. This is where the biological metaphor breaks down (or rather, where it becomes forced).

I'm assuming that Thom's working within certain limitations, i.e. that he doesn't have access to the designers' personal diaries, corporate records, and so on, which means de facto that he's limited to a formal analysis of the genealogy of styles. There's great value in this. Even if Thom had access to every single written and unwritten source ever created about the subject or somehow related to the subject and had the ability to comprehend all of it (not just diaries, but advertisements that inspired certain designs, scents that triggered emotional reactions in a CEO at crucial moments in a product's history that led her to approve the product, etc.), the fact is that the historian can bring connections to light that even the historical actors were unaware of.

Actually, when we write history, we try to honor the past, but we also end up participating in it and competing with it. Not only is it unavoidable, it's desirable. So I commend Thom on his efforts, and I look forward to reading the final product. I think that maybe some phone designers could learn something, as well.

On that note, Wirth's systems are germane here. Wirth and ETH Zurich are well-known for having been influential and very forward-looking (e.g., Oberon), but a bit like Knuth and TAOCP, it's hard to trace the full extent of the influence if you limit yourself to looking at who read/wrote what based on the original. Influence can be reproduced in many ways. It's especially difficult in industry, which has a vested interest in concealing influences.

Reply Score: 1

RE[6]: Part 2
by Tony Swash on Sat 30th Jul 2011 17:33 UTC in reply to "RE[5]: Part 2"
Tony Swash Member since:
2009-08-22

I guess what i am interested in is evidence of causality. Is there evidence that A influenced or led to B?

If there is no evidence then all that is possible is speculation - which is fun but which is trivial.

Reply Score: 2

RE[7]: Part 2
by earksiinni on Sat 30th Jul 2011 20:12 UTC in reply to "RE[6]: Part 2"
earksiinni Member since:
2009-03-27

There's evidence, but it's not the same kind as in science. Modern science is explicitly set up as an enterprise where the rules that govern what counts as a causal relationship and how to determine a causal relationship are established and agreed upon by (nearly) everyone. History--or at least the kind of academic history practiced by professional scholars--is much more flexible, and I think that this is on purpose. In at least one sense, there's a lot more at stake in history, since the subject is humans. We might want strict rules of causality for physics, but do you really want the guy writing your history to stick hard and fast to his personal conception of human behavior?

Yes, psychology tries to do precisely that; but psychology is also very new, and clinical psychology always sticks to very small test cases that are difficult to extrapolate from (to the scale of revolutions or, in this case, entire design lineages). We'll see how that field develops.

So there is evidence, and like scientific evidence, historical evidence is based on patterns in particular contexts. In art history or the history of design, we know that purely formal analyses like the one Thom is engaging in can very often be corroborated with documentary evidence that comes much later. Thus, it's reasonable for Thom to engage in a similar exercise because, based on what we know from previous investigations into artistic influences, formal similarities often (but not always) reflect conscious design choices. Yet unlike scientific evidence, the patterns like the one I just mentioned are much more fluid and debatable.

Also, since many people grow up learning that history is about memorizing dates and facts, which has little to do with what professional historians do, they think that there is an objective narrative of "facts", as if time were one large chemical reaction and each "fact" were a molecule. That kind of history, the one we learn in secondary school, is created mostly to support whatever political agenda created it. Yes, the U.S. Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776--congratulations, you found the lowest common denominator, school board. But as soon as you step even slightly outside of the bare minimum into the sorts of things that make history meaningful (e.g., that the Declaration was signed by the _Founding Fathers_--who are the "fathers"? Why do they count as the fathers but not someone else? Were there "mothers"? "Uncles"?), what seems like a "fact" is actually a very complicated assertion. When we report the facts, we choose which to include and which to leave out.

All of this is just to say that there really is no "fact" when it comes to design influences. Ultimately, art can reach us in so many ways, there's no such thing as "incontrovertible" evidence for Thom's project--evidence, yes, but incontrovertible, no. The only evidence in any field, sciences included, that's incontrovertible is the evidence whose "rules of engagement" everyone agrees upon. But since people have different standards for history, art, and design--indeed, since the three are used both by revolutionaries and reactionaries--we won't ever agree on those rules. It's not speculation, though. It's useful work, and ultimately it feeds back into the cycle of creation and inspiration. Maybe someone reading Thom's book will find a trend that inspires her to create the next Newton. That's always the hope. How many countless people picked up Marx and picked up a gun? How many Tea Partiers today pick up Ayn Rand and then pick up a phone?

Thom, I hope you're paying attention to this ;-) Keep up the good work! I'm very excited to read your book.

Reply Score: 1

I have a Newton MessagePad 2000
by Inqvisitor on Sat 30th Jul 2011 08:36 UTC
Inqvisitor
Member since:
2011-07-30

It was given to me by a staff member. It has a 4xAA battery adapter and keyboard, if I can find it. I also think I have a manual somewhere. First comment on the internet in my entire life so I don`t know how you can contact me.

Reply Score: 1

earksiinni Member since:
2009-03-27

Welcome to the Web!

(Just kidding :-)

Reply Score: 1

Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

It was given to me by a staff member. It has a 4xAA battery adapter and keyboard, if I can find it. I also think I have a manual somewhere. First comment on the internet in my entire life so I don`t know how you can contact me.


I sent you an email ;) .

Reply Score: 1