When We Got the Future Right

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Often, humans' predictions of future technology is slightly off. There are no flying cars, after all. But, every once in a while people's futuristic predictions can be surprisingly accurate.

Two videos rounded up by All Things D show AT&T and newspaper publisher Knight Ridder had an amazingly accurate view of the today's technology more than a decade ago. Both organizations predicted the widespread availability of information online and that we would be accessing that "information superhighway" from a series of portable devices, including tablet computers.

Knight Ridder predicted the rise of the tablet computer at least as far back as 1994. A video report shows that the publisher's research lab based in Boulder, Colorado expected people would use tablets to consume information, including text, graphics and video.

As Peter Kafka of All Things D points out, the labs assumption that people would continue to solely rely on getting information their newspaper of choice was a bit off.

"Over the last 15 years there have been many attempts to develop electronic newspapers. Many of the technologists who are pursuing these objectives assume information is a commodity and people don't really care where that information comes from as long as it matches their set of personal interests," Roger Fidler, Knight Ridder design lab creator, said in the video. "I disagree with that view. People recognize the newspapers they subscribe to."

It would seem that information is a commodity, especially for those that didn't grow up reading newspapers.

"A series of AT&T commercials from 1993 told customers "you will" be able to travel across the country without stopping for directions (in-car navigation), send a "fax" (via a tablet) from the beach, buy concert tickets from a cash machine, make video calling, watch on-demand video and videoconference. The methods might be slightly off, but the concepts are remarkably dead-on.

The question is, if AT&T had such a solid grasp on the future why didn't it start working on the T-Mobile merger years ago?

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