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IT vet talks about the most influential computers

IT vet talks about the most influential computers

MyLifeBits creator Gordon Bell talks about his 50 years of computing.

What ever happened to telepresence?

I think telepresence is happening. It's slowly happening. When I went to Microsoft, we got to a certain point and said, "Gee until the network and the IP stack and all those things get better, it will be hard to do telepresence." Telepresentation is the ability to give a presentation and have it multicast to a number of remote sites. We wanted to attend lectures in Redmond and have them available on the Net. Telepresence is time shifting and space shifting. It's like being here while being there, and potentially at some other time. You're potentially at some other time and space. It's getting more and more common. [With] Messenger and Skype, I make perfectly good video calls from Sydney, and we'll have several of us online, communicating in that form. I think it's kind of here and will get better.

What's you favorite gadget?

It's the Kindle book reader. I'm an advocate of having books electronically. I just came back from a trip. I had 150 books scanned. The Kindle is Amazon's service but also a wonderful reader. It's a paperback-size screen. I love it. Somebody said they'd never switch from paper, but I said, "If you're lying in bed, the thing rests on your tummy and you don't have the stress on your hands when you're trying to keep it up and open."

What do you wish people knew about your friend and fellow Microsoft researcher Jim Gray?

He was so outgoing that people working with him all felt he was our personal friend. He's a unique individual. If you asked 100 people who's your best personal friend, they'd all say Jim. And I don't feel bad that all those other people feel that way. He gave me a book called Pasteur's Quadrant, which is about what separated Pasteur from other scientists. It's about a quest for understanding and a quest for use. Is what you're doing going to have any utility and any contributions to science? Jim was all about the use and about the understanding. He wrote great papers. As a researcher, he did his job of making his work understandable and known, and people could build on it.

What upcoming technology are you most excited about?

There are two that have come out and we're just watching what they will do -- the cell phone and wireless sensor networks, the ability to have radio connections with everything. It's all about where it's going. It's your entertainment center. It could be your books. As you get more and more data, the cell phone increasingly will have more onboard storage.

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