Tyler Baker tyler at
Tue Nov 23 04:13:50 GMT 1999

rev-bob at wrote:

> > ** Original Sender: David Megginson <david at>
> >
> > Of course, I've been wrong often before, and I'm not an expert in
> > small or embedded devices, so I'll look forward to seeing what
> > happens.  I do think that small devices will be at the centre of
> > computing in the next decade (and a mostly MS-free centre, to boot).
> > I'm also looking forward to the big 3COM antitrust trial in 2009.
> Okay, this may qualify as high heresy these days, but someone has to say it...and it looks
> like the duty falls to me.  The fact is, I *despise* palmtops when it comes to documents
> bigger than, say, your average shopping list.  It's not an implementation issue (ie. "the
> technology isn't mature enough"); it's a usability issue.  For documents of a reasonable
> size (greater than 1K or so), a palmtop is just too small to make adequate use of them;
> you just can't see enough of the document at once to easily follow it.  Lists and such
> work fine, but even for such "trivial" tasks as email, I wouldn't dream of trying to cram
> an application or even an interface for one into a small device.  Certain implementation
> issues also come into play - for instance, it's a trivial task to write a document  on a
> keyboard, but rather arduous when you're scribbling on a PDA - but by and large, it's a
> mindspace issue.
> How does this relate to the current topic?  Well, except for a couple of applications
> (stock quotes come to mind), I consider the much-hyped Wireless Web to be slightly less
> torturous than an iron maiden (and I *don't* mean the rock group).  The one thing I can
> think of which would show real promise in changing this is exactly the one thing nobody
> really seems to be looking at - text-to-speech conversion for small devices.  That is,
> instead of working on making the tiny screens a little bit bigger or a little bit clearer,
> maybe someone could work on routing the information through a speaker and only
> having the screen as a reference point for data which is hard to understand through
> audio.  I hear a lot - especially here - about the "how" of fitting XML onto cellphones
> and palmtops; what I haven't heard anything about yet is the "why" of it.

I agree completely. I am trying to understand how everyone and their brother thinks this
"embedded market" will overtake PC's anytime soon when no one has created a display device or
user interface that is significantly better than the old TRS-80. Perhaps until we have some
way or bending light in creative ways that creates holograms of the document view, we will
never have anything really that useful to do with Palm Pilots or net-enabled toasters other
than the least common denominator uses we have today which are 10 character length email and a
few stock quotes popped onto your screen. The same people who said the "PC is dead" a couple
of years ago and promoted the NC, are the same simple minded people that think these so called
"embedded devices" will replace the PC. Yes it is true yesterdays PC quality chips are now
running Palm Pilots and other PDA's, but the real problem of creating miniature display
devices that show more than 3 characters and input devices that don't give you carpal tunnel
is another story.

In other words, I could have a supercomputer in my Palm Pilot, but what would that buy me if I
have no feasible way of interracting with that supercomputer. I suppose I could try and crunch
N digits of pi for the fun of it, but I do not exactly consider this useful for doing word
processing or spreadsheets, or anything but the most trivial applications.


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