Fresh: mailbag

XIII.5 September + October 2006
Page: 9
Digital Citation

Letters to the editor

Jonathan Arnowitz, Elizabeth Dykstra-Erickson

back to top  Unfulfilled Prophecies

I enjoyed your article "CHI at the Movies and on TV" ("Fast Forward," May-June 2006). I'm glad to know I'm not the only person who has this interest. I hold a particular fascination for failed predictions.

One of my favorites regarding HCI occurred in Fritz Lang's silent movie Metropolis in which workers watched gauges and then used great physical force to adjust levers to compensate for whatever the gauges measured. I wondered why the levers weren't easier to operate and why there weren't machines to manage what happens when the gauges indicated something needed to be done. But, I guess it made for good theater at the time. (This movie also featured a "digital" clock based on ten hours.)

When I was a kid, I was also fascinated with the book 1975 and the Changes to Come (1962). One of my favorite predictions from that book is a computerized language translation machine. The photograph of the prototype shows a woman typing into a teletype machine; a minicomputer-sized machine with lots of lights and gauges is behind her. The caption reads: "Typist copies story from Russian newspaper Pravda on special machine which converts Russian letters to punched holes in paper tape. Insertion of the tape into another machine produces translation. By the 1970s, automatic translation of practically all foreign publications and books will be routine."

Another favorite from that book is the prediction of flights across the Atlantic for $31: "Handley Page, Limited, British aircraft manufacturer, says this 300-seat plane could fly travelers from New York to London for $31 each. With international travel becoming a commonplace occurrence, the British company is serious about the plane's prospects for production in the '70s." Too bad that prediction didn't come true.

Rich Rockwell

back to top  Gotos Considered Harmful

What's "continued on page 60" doing in a magazine about usability?

Bill Wohler
Sr. Software Engineer
Menlo Park, CA, USA

back to top  Authors

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