mark weiser

mark weiser.png

intro via bg – ubiquitous computing (and Steve Jobs wanting Mark with xerox deal, and Mark being called smartest man)..

Mark and John Seely Brown‘s the coming of age of calm tech (1996)


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Mark D. Weiser (July 23, 1952 – April 27, 1999) was a chief scientist at Xerox PARC in the United States. Weiser is widely considered to be the father of ubiquitous computing, a term he coined in 1988


Ubiquitous computing and calm technology

During one of his talks, Weiser outlined a set of principles describing ubiquitous computing:

  • The purpose of a computer is to help you do something else.
  • The best computer is a quiet, invisible servant.
  • The more you can do by intuition the smarter you are; the computer should extend your unconscious.
  • Technology should create calm.

In Designing Calm Technology, Weiser and John Seely Brown describe calm technology as “that which informs but doesn’t demand our focus or attention.”

Ubiquitous computing names the third wave in computing, just now beginning. First were mainframes, each shared by lots of people. Now we are in the personal computing era, person and machine staring uneasily at each other across the desktop. Next comes ubiquitous computing, or the age of calm technology, when technology recedes into the background of our lives. – Mark Weiser


MIT Media Lab cofounder Nicholas Negroponte observed at a recent TED event that “I look today at some of the work being done around the Internet of Things and it’s kind of tragically pathetic.”

The “tragically pathetic” label has been especially fitting for wearables, considered the hottest segment of the Internet of Things.


The new paradigm should embrace and evolve the principles of what was once called “ubiquitous computing.” The history of that vision over the last two decades may help illuminate where the Internet of Things is today and where it may or may not go.

In 1991, Mark Weiser, then head of the Computer Science Lab at Xerox PARC, published an article in Scientific American titled “The Computer for the 21st Century.” The article opens with what should be the rallying cry for the Internet of Things today: “The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.”

is a pdf – so didn’t download.. but here is a video on it:

The Computer for the 21st Century

3 min – on other terms for this disappearing into environment (like writing does.. but like silicon based computers don’t): compiling; visual invariants; tacit dimension; the horizon; ready-to-hand; periphery

getting in way: 1\ mistaken understanding of concept of ubiquitous – places attention on ie: one machine.. rather than making it disappear 2\ virtual reality – even farther from the point.. takes you out of real world..

5 min – key facets: location and scale

7 min – 3 surfaces: tabs; pads (scarp computers); boards

15 min – contingent on: computers; networks, software systems

17 min – why .. if we’ve surpassed Weiser’s predictions for tech.. is his ubiquitous computing still seemingly sci fi narrative… – Nicola Brown

Weiser went on to explain what was wrong with the personal computing revolution brought on by Apple and others: “The arcane aura that surrounds personal computers is not just a ‘user interface’ problem. My colleague and I at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center think that the idea of a ‘personal’ computer itself is misplaced and that the visions of laptop machines, dynabooks and ‘knowledge navigators’ is only a transitional step toward achieving the real potential of information technology.  Such machines cannot truly make computing an integral, invisible part of people’s lives.”


I asked Bob Metcalfe what is required to make us happy with our Internet of Things experience. “Not so much good UX, but no UX at all,” he said. “The IoT should disappear into the woodwork, even faster than Ethernet has.” Metcalfe invented the Ethernet at Xerox PARC at the time Weiser and others were working on making computers disappear.

Besides ubiquity, there are at least two other dimensions to the new paradigm of the Internet of Things. One is seamless connectivity. In response to the same question, Google’s Hal Varian told me, “I think that the big challenge now is interoperability.


Disappearing into the woodwork. All things talking to all things. *Useful data.

*perhaps – self talk as data

app chipsimple enough mechshort