Knowledge Navigator: An Apple Concept from 1987
What 1980s futurism has to do with the cola wars and presaging Angry Birds.
By Maria Popova
In 1987, Apple CEO John Sculley published Odyssey: Pepsi to Apple — a tale of innovative ideas, tumultuous transitions and unabashed practical futurism. Besides the fascinating story of the seminal “Pepsi Challenge,” which allowed Pepsi to gain unprecedented market share over competitor Coke, the book features a peculiar concept called Knowledge Navigator — a networked device that can search a massive hypertext database and retrieve just about any information, using a multitouch interface and powerful voice recognition technology. So, essentially, Wikipedia meets iPhone meets Ford Sync long before there was either.
Alongside the book, Sculley released a series of concept videos showcasing Knowledge Navigator, set in roughly the present day and regarded at the time as an outlandish technological pipe dream. (Here’s where we point you to last week’s piece on vintage visions of the future.)
What’s most remarkable about this Knowledge Navigator video demo is that it was produced six years before the graphical interface of the web even existed, a good 15 years before point-to-point videoconferencing like Skype was a mainstream reality, and some 2 decades before touchscreen technology had widespread device implementation.
Odyssey was republished last August by Betascript Publishing. We highly recommend it not only as a living hallmark of our collective cultural curiosity for information technology, but also as a fascinating presage of today’s digital learning landscape.
Published January 19, 2011