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Talk Outline

Personal Computing in the 21st Century

By Gary K. Starkweather


Ever since the dawn of the digital computer, invention, innovation, and creativity have been a hallmark of the industry. The mainframe computer seemed for a while to be the real player with experts or at least highly trained professionals operating these large and expensive machines. Most users were allowed to see them through glass windows but “hands on” was a rare opportunity. In 1972, the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), built a remarkable personal computer named the ALTO. Except for the visionaries at PARC and a few others, most people considered the personal computer a mere curiosity in this early period. Today, the personal computer has become a tool that very few imagined. What might be yet to come?

While prognosticating about the future is a risky endeavor at best, perhaps we can obtain a look ahead with a straightforward review of the current status of personal computing. We will look at operating systems, application software and peripherals, however, the real goal of this talk is to see what the user interface, tools and interactions with this future computing environment might be or perhaps even should be. Will we still be using continuing variations of Doug Englebart’s mouse in 2020 or might something new and much more advanced emerge? How might users seamlessly deal with terabytes of storage? How might multi-user environments be used and could multi-OS machines be an economic and generally available personal computing environment? Are there user experience issues that are critical in multi-OS environments? How might the user’s display be different from today? Will tomorrow’s displays be larger, have a significantly higher pixel density, be much more paper-like, etc.? Might electronic printers and their requisite paper output still be with us by 2025, for example? Will home and neighborhood network resources finally be a powerful ally of the computing environment? Many exciting opportunities and questions beg for answers and industry insight.

This talk will attempt to peer into the near future to see what we might expect of the personal computing environment based on what we can extrapolate from current experience and technology directions. While the exactitude of such projections may be limited, taken as a whole, there is perhaps much that can be learned from such an exercise. Why do this? Charles Kettering, the great automotive inventor was asked why he spent so much time planning and thinking about the future. He wisely replied, “Because I am going to spend the rest of my life there.” Thirty years ago, very few could have imagined all the wonderful things that personal computing has enabled. Perhaps we have just begun our exciting journey.


Gary received his B.S. in Physics from Michigan State University in 1960. He subsequently moved to Rochester, New York and began his graduate studies in Optics at the University of Rochester. He graduated from the University of Rochester in 1966 with a Masters Degree in Optics.

He has spent over 43 years in the imaging sciences and holds over 44 patents in the fields of imaging, color and hardcopy devices. From 1962 to 1964, he worked for Bausch & Lomb Inc. in Rochester, NY. From 1964 until 1988 he was employed by Xerox Corporation where he became a Senior Research Fellow.  In 1971 he transferred to the newly formed Xerox research center in Palo Alto, California. While at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center or PARC, he invented the laser printer. He has received a number of awards for this work. In 1977, Xerox presented him with the Xerox President’s Achievement Award. In 1987, he received the Johann Gutenberg Prize from the Society for Information Display and in 1991 he received the David Richardson medal from the Optical Society of America and in 1992, he received the Engineering Excellence Award also from the optical society of America. From March of 1988 until May of 1997, he was employed by Apple Computer as an Apple Fellow involved in Publishing and Color Imaging products and research.  In May of 1997 he joined Microsoft Corporation in Redmond, Washington and became an Architect in Microsoft Research working on novel information hardware such as large displays, high resolution displays. While at Microsoft he authored several papers on displays and Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems or MEMS technology. He also worked on optical security technology with other technology groups a Microsoft.

In March of 1994 he received a Technical Academy Award for his consulting work with Lucasfilm and Pixar on color film scanning. In November of 2002, he was inducted into the Technology Hall of Fame at COMDEX. He has published many papers and has written a book chapter entitled “High Speed Laser Printers” for Academic Press. He has served on several technical committees involved in display and color related imaging issues and has lectured at both Stanford University and UCLA. He is a Fellow of the IS&T as well an Honorary Member and is also a fellow of the Society for Information Display. Most recently, in October of 2004, he became a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

He has now retired from Microsoft, and has moved with his wife Joyce to DeBary, Florida. His hobbies are astronomy, music and model railroading.

Home Call for Participation Program Committee Past UISTs Registration Seattle Sponsorship


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