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Innovation

Time traveling an iPad back to 1999

Last night I was watching the movie Office Space (remember Milton and the line "Excuse me, I believe you have my stapler..."), a movie set in 1999, in the heady days leading up to Y2K. Well, I wasn't really watching the movie, it was just on in the background. Anyway, I was doing a spot of work on my iPad while the movie was on I started to idly think about how cool it would be if you could take an iPad back to 1999 ...

Last night I was watching the movie Office Space (remember Milton and the line "Excuse me, I believe you have my stapler..."), a movie set in 1999, in the heady days leading up to Y2K. Well, I wasn't really watching the movie, it was just on in the background. Anyway, I was doing a spot of work on my iPad while the movie was on I started to idly think about how cool it would be if you could take an iPad back to 1999 ...

hgwellswithipad.jpg
Wouldn't it be cool? Wouldn't people think that the iPad was a wonder bit of kit? Wouldn't people think it was one of the most magical things they'd seen ...

No they wouldn't!

It took me a while to realize it, but an iPad in 1999 would be little more than a glorified paper weight. See, 1999 is pre iPod and pre iTunes. So no apps, no music, no movies. Heck, Steve Jobs hadn't had time to conjure up such things, having only been back at the helm of Apple for a couple of years after been given the boot by the board of directors back in 1985.

It was also pre 3G, pre GPRS and EDGE for that matter, so as a mobile tool it would be useless. Even 802.11a/b wasn't nailed down as a standard until the second half of 1999.

Most people were using modems that dished out bandwidth by the kbps.

USB existed, but the high speed USB 2.0 had to wait until 2002.

Connectivity would have been rubbish.

GPS existed, but the accuracy was crap because of the Selective Availability pseudo-random error that was deliberately added to the signal to prevent the bad guys making use of it, which wasn't discontinued until May 2000.

Google existed, but was pretty insignificant in the scheme of things. YouTube wasn't even conceived.

Even the Safari browser was years away. Mac OS X existed, but only as a server OS.

Nah, I don't think that people of 1999 would have been all that impressed with the iPad. They'd have asked "Where does the floppy disk go?" and on finding that it couldn't read floppies, probably used it as a club or hammer or something.

Seriously though, it's pretty sobering to realize how much infrastructure and technology a gadget like the iPad relies on, and how much of that stuff either didn't exist a little over a decade ago, or was much more primitive than it is right now.

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