- Brad Barket / Stringer / Getty Images
• In 1987, Apple came out with a concept video that showed a hypothetical computer of the future.
• The video touched upon numerous upcoming technological advances, including voice technology, tablets, and videoconferencing, to name a few.
• But the public wasn’t having it. “People said, ‘Well, this is absurd,'” former Apple CEO John Sculley told Business Insider.
It was a glimpse into the future, but people weren’t ready.
Former Apple CEO John Sculley had first teased the idea of a futuristic computer app in his 1987 autobiography “Odyssey.” That same year, Apple released a series of concept videos promoting the idea of “The Knowledge Navigator.” The technology would help people search through a large hypertext network using software agents.
The idea came about in the wake of Steve Jobs’ 1985 departure from the company he founded. John Sculley, who succeeded Jobs as Apple’s CEO, knew that the company had to continue to look to the future.
Sculley told Business Insider that, around that time, Apple fellow Alan Kay approached him with a suggestion: look to the MIT Media Lab for inspiration.
Sculley agreed, and the ensuing collaboration resulted in an imagining of what personal computers might look like decades into the future.
- Mac History/Youtube
Set in 2007, the resulting 1987 video followed around an environmental science professor at Berkely juggling everything from preparing a lecture to buying a birthday cake for his father.
To get it all done, he relies on his digital personal butler – the bowtie-wearing, hypothetical grandfather of modern assistants like Siri, Cortana, Alexa, Bixby, and Google Assistant.
During the nearly six-minute vignette, the professor videoconferences with a colleague, researches journal articles on deforestation in the Amazon, and updates his busy schedule, all on one touch screen tablet.
“At the time we came out with it, it was incredibly controversial,” Sculley said. “People said, ‘Well, this is absurd.'”
“‘How can this guy who’s not an engineer be telling us what technology is going to be looking like years from now?'” he said. “But it wasn’t my technology. It was Alan Kay and all these incredibly talented people at MIT.”
Sculley said the fact that many elements of the video have become reality is a reflection of the “exponential rate of change” the tech world has experienced.
“All of these things which we take for granted today, we were being criticized for saying this was what the world was going to look like,” he said.
Watch the video here:
If you are a current or former Apple employee with a story to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Correction, October 29, 2017: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that George Lucas directed the “Knowledge Navigator” video. Randy Field directed the video with Kenwood Group in San Francisco.