It seems like every year I read about how something we think is new and exciting, or at least fairly recent, has been kicking around for a long time. (I mentioned video games a while back, for example.) Recently on the same day I read a Jeff Atwood blog entry and a Wired article about Ray Ozzie. Here are some quotes:
From On December 9, 1968, Douglas C. Engelbart and the group of 17 researchers working with him in the Augmentation Research Center at Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, CA, presented a 90-minute live public demonstration of the online system, NLS, they had been working on since 1962. The public presentation was a session in the Fall Joint Computer Conference held at the Convention Center in San Francisco, and it was attended by about 1,000 computer professionals. This was the public debut of the computer mouse. But the mouse was only one of many innovations demonstrated that day, including hypertext, object addressing and dynamic file linking, as well as shared-screen collaboration involving two persons at different sites communicating over a network with audio and video interface.
and from the Wired article, talking about 1973:
Users had direct contact and direct feedback—not just to computers but to one another. "They had this thing called Personal Notes, which you would call email," Ozzie says. "They had this thing called Talkomatic, which is like real-time group chat. And they had this thing called Term-Talk, which was like instant messaging." It was also a way-before-its-time Valhalla of computer gaming. Programmers on the system had gone far beyond the tic-tac-toe and hangman that were popular in other computer centers to pioneer multiplayer online games, notably the Star Trek-inspired Empire. In retrospect, looking at the Plato community was like peeking through a wormhole and viewing the 21st-century Internet—but without the spam, fraud, and commercialism that would come with the real thing 35 years later.
I wonder what technology we're using today that only kinda sorta works and just a few visionaries (eccentrics?) are using it, but 30 or 40 years from now when it's ubiquitous, we'll all be "hey! we had that in 2008! I think I have a screenshot around here somewhere..."