Intelligent Listening For Beginners

Back in 1987,  Chris Boucher created the TV series Star Cops, and accidentally foretold everything about your daily life.

Back in those days, affordable personal computers were crap. It was the end of the 8-bit era, and the dawn of the PC age for the masses. Amstrad were knocking out cut-price but frankly rubbish desktop PCs, but most home users still had old Spectrums and Commodores, with a few having Ataris.

In the “portable” world, we had some very iffy luggable laptops, and the Psion Organiser.

The Psion was utterly brilliant for the time, and the price, but looking back, it was actually very limited. Still, it sowed the seed for something a lot better.

The Psion Organiser inspired the “Box”, which would be made by the fictional Recondite Computers.

Having roughly the same form factor as the Psion Organiser II, Box was a (large) pocket-sized communication device with Artificial Intelligence, voice recognition and wireless network connectivity. Does that remind you of anything?

This was 1987.  A mobile phone looked like this:

1987.  It would take nearly 10 years before “Personal Digital Assistants” (PDAs) started to appear. Read about it here, PDAs and phones crossed over and then became the same thing, but it wasn’t until 2011 that natural language voice recognition came to the  mobile phone, with the voice (and ears) of Siri.

And after Siri came Cortana, Alexa,  “ok google”, and the age of your digital devices listening to you all the time.

Of course any Recondite Computers, or Recondite Systems, that have a website right now are also entirely fictional and should be considered as fan sites.

2 thoughts on “Intelligent Listening For Beginners”

  1. [quote]
    1987. It would take nearly 10 years before “Personal Digital Assistants” (PDAs) started to appear.

    That may be stretching things a tad: Apple was shipping the Newton MessagePad in 1993. Call it six years.

    Perhaps more to the point, Apple had a PDA demo running in 1987 that was very Box-like in its capabilities. Alas, they had to wait another half-decade before the technology to build handheld computers became practical.

    You can get an idea of what they were attempting here:

    Overall, it’s pretty impressive for 35 years ago. Unfortunately, the technology to make the demo a reality just wasn’t there. Whilst the Newton was a true PDA, Apple’s marketing people made the mistake of emphasising the handwriting capability and that was one part of the device that didn’t work very well.

    If the salesdroids had, instead, emphasised the way the Newton associated ideas, Apple might have sold a good deal more of them. We’ll never know…

    1. I had a Newton. To be honest, all it was used for was to send infra-red messages to other members of the Tech Team about how bored we were in the departmental meetings.
      I also had a Psion 3A which I could plug into any of the RS232 sockets in case a terminal went down. It was happy days when I was allowed a laptop with an ethernet card in it.

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