The Unfinished Revolution: Human-Centered Computers and What They Can Do for Us

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HarperCollins, Jan 9, 2001 - Business & Economics - 240 pages
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If our cars were as difficult to drive as our computers are to operate, they would never leave the garage. Yet everyday we put up with infuriating complications and incomprehensible error messages that spew forth from our technology: software upgrades crash our machines, Web sites take forever to download, e-mail overwhelms us. We spend endless time on the phone waiting for automated assistance.

In effect, we continue to serve our machines' lowly needs, instead of insisting that they serve us -- a situation that will only get worse as millions of new mobile devices arrive on the scene.

Our world doesn't have to be this way. It shouldn't be this way.

Wouldn't it be great if using your computer was as effortless as steering your car? In The Unfinished Revolution, Michael Dertouzos introduces human-centered computing a radical change in the way we fashion and use computer systems that will ultimately make this goal possible.

The Unfinished Revolution is nothing less than an inspired manifesto for the future of computing. Dertouzos's vision will change how businesses, organizations, and governments work with each other, and how individuals interact. It represents the dawn of a new era in information technology.

Human-centered computing goes well beyond the empty promises of "user-friendly" interfaces. At its foundation are five key technologies that will dramatically amplify our human capabilities: natural interaction, automation, individualized information access, collaboration, and customization. Human-centered systems will understand us when we speak to them; will do much of our routine brainwork for us; will get us the information we want, when and where we want it; will help us work with other people across space and time; and will adapt on their own to our individual needs and desires.

By exploiting these five emerging technologies in combination -- in our professional specialties and in our personal lives -- we will see a vast increase in our productivity and a marked change in the ways we live and work. Human-centered technologies will make computers simpler, more natural, and more useful to us. The collective benefits of human-centered machines will give ordinary people capabilities that go beyond those enjoyed today by the most privileged. Human-centered systems will give us the gaspedal, brakes, and steering wheel of the Information Age.

When can all this happen? Dertouzos says the time to start is now. You can begin simplifying and improving your relationship with computers today. Dertouzos offers dozens of scenarios that illustrate the potential of human centered computing, as well as a preview of the MIT Oxygen project -- a prototype now under development that aims to make pervasive human-centered computing a reality. Dertouzos also provides the new century's first glimpse of how upcoming information technology advances will significantly improve our lives and truly revolutionize our relationships with the computer.

This is a book for everyone, professionals and nonspecialists, who yearn for machines that live up to the grand promise of the Information Revolution -- fulfilling real human needs with greater simplicity -- that still lingers unfulfilled. The Unfinished Revlolution is for those who want to enhance their computer productivity and fun, in short, for every person who wants to do more by doing less.

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About the author (2001)

Tech oracle Michael Dertouzos (1937-2001) offered a learned, accessible, and fascinatingly detailed preview of new information technology and described how it would remake our society, culture, economy, and private lives.

Since 1974 Michael Dertouzos had been Director of the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS). For more than a quarter century, MIT has been at the forefront of the computer revolution. Its members and alumni have been instrumental in the invention of such innovations as time-shared computers, RSA encryption, the Spreadsheet, the NuBus, the X-Window system, the ARPAnet and the Internet. The Lab is currently home to the World Wide Web Consortium, an open forum of companies and organizations led by the Web’s inventor.

Dertouzos had spent much of his career studying and forecasting future technological shifts, and leading his lab toward making them a reality. In a 1976 People magazine interview, he successfully predicted the emergence of a PC in every 3-4 homes by the mid-1990s. In 1980, he first wrote about the Information Marketplace, with an ambitious vision of networked computers that has emerged as the trillion-dollar engine of commerce transforming our economy.

Most recently, Dertouzos has been an advocate for what he calls "human-centric computing" -- a radical transformation of the way we use computers. As part of this effort, LCS recently unveiled the $50 million Oxygen project, intended to make computers easier to use and as natural a part of our environment as the air we breathe.

Born in Athens, Greece, Dertouzos came to the U.S. as a Fulbright Scholar. Following a Ph.D. from MIT in 1964, he joined the MIT faculty, where he had been Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering.

In 1968 Dertouzos founded Computek Inc. to manufacture and market one of the earliest graphical display terminals, based on one of his patents. He soon became the Chairman of the Board of Computek, where he introduced the first intelligent terminals in the early 1970's. He subsequently sold the company when he became Director of LCS. Since that time, Dertouzos has been involved in several high-tech start-ups, including Picture Tel and RSA. In his consulting activities for companies such as Siemens Nixdorf, UPS, and BASF he has advanced business and Information Technology strategies.

During the Carter Administration, Dertouzos chaired a White House advisory group that redesigned the White House Information Systems. In February of 1995, he represented the U.S. as a member of the U.S. delegation led by Vice President Al Gore to the G7 Conference on the Information Society. In 1998 he was co-chairman of the World Economic Forum on the Network Society in Davos, Switzerland.

Dertouzos was a dual citizen of the U.S. and the E.U. He had worked extensively with the European Commission, in particular as a frequent keynote speaker on ESPRIT and other EC technology programs. For several years he was an adviser to the Prime Minister of Greece, as well as to other governments.

Dertouzos was also a member of the United States National Academy of Engineering and the Athens Academy of Arts and Sciences. He held an honorary doctorate from the University of Athens, and he received the B.J. Thompson Award (best paper) of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the Terman Award (best educator) of the American Society for Engineering Education. He was a member of the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, and has been honored by the Hellenic Republic as Commander of Greece's Legion of Honor.

Dertouzos is the author/co-author of seven books, including MADE IN AMERICA: Regaining the Productive Edge (MIT Press, 1989), with over 300,000 copies in print, and WHAT WILL BE: How the New World of Information Will Change Our Lives (HarperCollins, 1997), which has been translated into thirteen languages.

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