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Technology – What we imagined vs What we got

Have you seen those posters from the 1930’s – “The World of Tomorrow” –

smartphone

Flying cars, time travel, the fridge that orders it’s own groceries. Some things we’ve surpassed and somethings we’re still working on. Thanks to Apple, FaceTiming isn’t as cumbersome as this illustration. I grew up watching The Jetsons, assuming we’d have flying cars and travel tubes.

But there is no helicopter in my garage. I do keep a phone in my pocket that connects to the internet and therefor the answer to any question I ever have. It’s still costly and time consuming to travel from Detroit to New York or LA. But video chats have cut out the need to travel to for business and makes keeping in touch with friends easier.

I went to Florida a few years back, and stayed with friends of friends, it turned out that everyone in the neighborhood I was staying in worked at Walt Disney World. We were given free passes and went. Over in Tomorrowland, where everything is what we imagined the future would be like when Disney World opened in 1971, (spoiler alert) a talking trashcan rolled over to us and started talking “Hello pretty ladies!” “Are you done with your beverages, please dispose of them here” and it’s “mouth” would open and reveal a trashcan. Knowing we had friends who worked in Tomorrowland, we were surprised that we didn’t see someone in that trashcan. Then we noticed that a guy we knew, was standing around with his hands in his sweatshirt pocket. He was controlling the trashcan from a remote control in his pocket, he had an earbud in and was taking and listening front the trashcan.

Not to date myself too much, but this was before Apple had released it’s iPhone, and I was stunned, even then, that the best we could do in the world of tomorrow was a remote controlled microphone.

Fast forward a few years later, I had discovered a new to me photographer and was researching him. His name is Bill Jay, his website is, and was, dated, but I loved reading everything on there. And then I found his list of published works. I had purchased his book Men Like Me. I loved everything about it, and it spoke to me and what I was doing in college then. Then looking through the list of books I saw this one – Sun in the Blood of the Cat… Well, I thought, that doesn’t sound like a normal title for a book with this description “An anthology of essays on 19th and 20th century photography”.

Here’s where technology and art meet and where my love for Bill Jay became one that will never end. “after installing voice recognition software into his computer, Jay spoke into his computer: ‘I would like to produce a collection of articles called Something Photographic, a seemingly bland phrase but nevertheless one which sounds rather jaunty.’ As Jay sat back and watched, the computer typed: ‘I would like to produce a collection of articles called sun in the blood of the cat…’ Jay looked at that sentence and said to himself: ‘Yes, I would!'”

Here I sit today trying to typing a mass of stories into one seemingly cohesive story. I often think of Bill Jay sitting in a bright office, talking into a big microphone watching his computer screen not type in what he’s saying, I remember my dad had software similar, and once I tried to write a paper for school with it, but after it not being able to figure out my name, I quit.

I think of how today, I will spend 30 minutes talking to Siri, trying to make that technology work for me instead of just opening a browser and typing in my search. Here’s a search I tried for “Do you have to dry pasta noodles before you cook them?”

SiriSo between Bill Jay trying to write a book through words in 2001 and my failed attempt at knowledge of dried pasta noodles, technology has come a long way in 14 years, but not nearly as far as I would have thought it would have advanced. And now you’ve read this far and wondered why I bring all this up, well, here’s why –

In the 1980’s application modeling software was called CASE (Computer Aided Software Engineering). The thing was, a number of companies developed products where you could build a model of an application (like you can in BPM), but those products generated code, such as RPG or COBOL.  If you needed to create functionality beyond what the model could handle, you had to modify the generated code.

The problem was, once you modified the generated code, the model was no longer complete, and if you generated the code again you would lose the modifications you made. The dream was to have a tool that could handle the full round trip between modeling and modifications keeping full integrity.
The dream was never realized in those CASE tools. Many people would model an application, modify the code, and then never go back to the model. It was a one way trip. What everybody wanted was a round trip.
And then finally, BPM! Ultimately this problem was solved by making the model fully extensible with whatever customizations you need to make. You never look at the under-the-covers generated code. You can do everything from within the model or with your extensions to the model (typically for example, with Javascript or calls to external services).
And of course BPM isn’t perfect yet. But you can get a lot farther now than you could with CASE. With the advances that Apex is making with ACV2, our new Firebase Integration Toolkit and with partners like IBM and vLegaci, we’ll get you on the road to success faster than you can reprogram that remote controlled trashcan you found.
erikafulkTechnology – What we imagined vs What we got

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