Another thing that we saw in 1968
was a tiny 1" square first flat panel display down at
the University of Illinois. We realized it was going to
be a matter of years until you could put all the electronics
found in the Flex Machine on the back of a flat panel
display, which I later came to call the Dynabook. Back
in 1968 when I made this cardboard model I thought of
it as the machine of the future and started thinking about
what would it be like for millions of people to have one
of these machines. As we got deeper into the design, we
realized that we wanted to dynamically simulate and extend.
And so the metaphor became the pencil.
What would it be like to have something like this as extent
in the world as pencil and paper. Could people actually
use it? And the answer in 1968 and the early 1970s was
no. So one of the ways I started thinking about answering
the question, since we failed at designing for adults.
And I remembered a wonderful phrase of Marshall McLuhan.
He said, I don't know who discovered water, but it wasn't
a fish. The idea is if you are immersed in a context you
can't even see it. So we decided to follow Seymour Papert's
lead and instead of trying to design for adults we would
try and see what this Dynabook of the future would be
like for children and then maybe hope some of it would
spill over into the adult world. So children were an absolutely
critical factor here.
From a memo I wrote to Xerox in 1971:
Though the Dynabook will have considerable local storage
and will do most computing locally, it will spend a large
percentage of its time hooked to various large, global
information utilities which will permit communication
with others of ideas, data, working models, as well as
the daily chit-chat that organizations need in order to
function. The communications link will be by private and
public wires and by packet radio. Dynabooks will also
be used as servers in the information utilities. They
will have enough power to be entirely shaped by software.