A Computer for Your Body
Friday, March 10, 1995 by Dave Winer.
It's more than just rainy here in California, it's a deluge! Total gully washer. The creek behind my mountain home is higher than I can remember. The house isn't in danger yet, but I *have* thought about how to make a quick exit if it gets bad.
When it stops raining it's going to be great. A few weeks ago I planted a bunch of flower beds in seeds -- sunflowers, sweet peas and nasturtiums. It looked like spring had sprung back then. To some extent it had. It's been warm since late January, but man has it been raining! The lawn is totally green. And my flowers, incubating in their fertilized beds, are waiting for the sun to come out. It's going to be a glorious bloom this year. There'll be lots of love! It's just a matter of weeks. Maybe days.
Speaking of seeds, my PowerBook is busy downloading the beta of Netscape 1.1 right now. But I already know I'm going to be disappointed. Reports from other script writers say its interapplication support is even more confused than version 1.0's.
I hope to get a chance to help Netscape improve its scripting interface before 1.1 goes golden. The opportunity of a truly open and scriptable network browser makes me very itchy! I want it now. It's very high on my to-do list.
I talked with John Doerr, an old friend, Kleiner VC and Netscape board member, down at Esther's. I've also been emailing with the lead developer of the Macintosh version of Netscape. Hey -- if you think you'd have fun with a scriptable net browser, send me email and I'll pass it on to the Netscape folks.
Speaking of John Doerr, he's mentioned frequently in the new book, Start Up, which is an amusing recount (rant?) of the history of Go Corporation by its founder and president, Jerry Kaplan, email@example.com.
I found a pre-release copy of Jerry's book in a pile of mail I sorted thru before leaving for Esther's. It was a perfect intro to the conference. The book recalls the faceoff between Jeff Raikes of Microsoft and Jerry and Robert Carr from Go, at the 1991 PC Forum. The products were PenWindows and PenPoint.
I remember sitting in the audience wondering "who do these guys think they're making products for?"
After four years, I got it! They were providing fuel for the industrialists that set the agenda for this toothless industry on stage at Esther's.
Hey -- so -- what was the buzz at this year's PC Forum? You know it! The Web! The toothless crowd joins the Web-O-Lution. Sort of.
I spoke just once at the conference just once to say two things. I'll repeat them here.
First, I asked that we all join to fight Senator Exon's Communications Decency Act of 1995. I've already written about this, in Peaceful Uses of the Internet, 2/17/95. If you use email you must make your opinions known and make your presence felt, and make sure your vote is not taken for granted. Clinton wants to get re-elected. Exon is a Democrat. It's democracy time folks.
Second, the toothless industrialists are thinking about this web thing wrong. It isn't a publishing system in the sense that magazines, newspapers and books are publishing systems.
The cost of of publishing a page is going down to about the cost of sending a single email message.
In other words, the cost is dropping almost to zero.
It's interesting to watch the current publishing industry try to turn the corner.
Their money may make transition if they're very lucky. The writers will turn the corner if they're brave. Same for software developers.
It helps to not have an infrastructure. Companies are diseconomic. People are powerful. Technology doesn't control people. It serves people. [I can't believe we're still having this discussion!]
The economics will heave. The last barrier is dropping. Think billions of websites, not hundreds. Lots of writing and lots of new writers. No publishers.
And Exon-willing, a chance for the human race to start listening to itself.
There's an awesome PDA type product that no one seems to be making. One that fits perfectly with the worldwide web. I don't particularly want to browse the web from an airplane or a taxi cab. I *do* want to browse it from my bedroom or living room. I need wireless technology. The same kind of digital connection that's in my AT&T wireless phone. I need an 8.5-by-11 screen. Gotta have color. I need lots of RAM, but do I need a hard disk? Hmmm, don't think so. Give me a base station for my desktop computer. I can use the desktop hard disk and its modem. Now you can read the DaveNet website from any home-oriented venue. The same places you can read a book. Gotta have it!
This brings me to a conversation I had with Stu Gannes, firstname.lastname@example.org, and John McChesney, email@example.com, at the Monday evening cocktail party at Esther's. They were talking about more ergonomic computer systems when I entered the conversation. This reminded me of a product I wanted to do in 1980, when the Apple ][ was the rage. The product still hasn't been made. And now I need it!
Do your arms ever ache from using a desktop computer? Mine do. How about your back? My back went out a couple of weeks ago. Certainly sitting in front of the computer isn't helping. It probably is the reason my back goes out ever five or six years. Maybe as I get older these problems will get worse? I worry about that.
Why do I have to sit erect like this using the computer? Why can't my body weight be better distributed? Why can't my neck be in a healthy relaxed position? Where do I put my feet? My elbows? I've become much more tuned in to this kind of stuff over the last year, I got certified as a massage therapist, and I've been doing lots of bodywork, shiatsu and breathwork, and stuff like that. I'm no expert, but I know we're doing this all wrong!
A slight digression -- after starting all this bodywork stuff last summer -- and then resuming software development -- I learned how software is held together. By the muscles in the developer's neck! My neck is like a brick when my software goes thru a tight corner -- when I'm rebuilding a basic internal API, for example, and thereby totally breaking the software (hopefully temporarily!). Until the software turns its corner, no amount of therapy or breathing can get my neck to relax. When the corner is turned, my neck eases up a bunch.
Anyway -- back to the main thread. I'd like to have a computer that lives inside a reclining chair. The video is displayed on a box that takes the place of my TV. The screen is ten to fifteen feet away from my eyes. The chair reclines fully, but is adjustable, so I don't always hold my body and neck in the same position. Control devices? Yeah -- I think I need a keyboard to write. No way around that.
I may not need Page Up and Page Down, but why not have them too? And something like the remote control for my current TV setup. The keyboard should swivel out just like the writing boards on classroom desks do. And since we're thinking about bodies, why not include foot pedals?
Does anyone want to make this chair?
I'd be happy to participate, if only as a beta site!