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John Patrick Takes Us “on a magic carpet ride”

by Jack Corcoran

John Patrick at podium
John Patrick does not do a presentation. What he does is take his audience on a magic carpet ride over the landscape of our emerging e-world. At the December 2000 meeting of the Danbury Area Computer Society we soared with him over a cyber terrain of momentous accomplishments, exciting new developments and intriguing hardware devices.
With John as our tour guide, we saw the beginnings of a transition from a compartment mindset to something very new and different. Currently, our everyday living is pretty much boxed in by our community and city. Our nationalistic needs and obligations are determined by the country we live in. However, when we use an electronic communication device to buy, sell, communicate, or just get information, there are no longer any boundaries. This is truly the beginning of a disruptive effect on the lifestyle of the entire population of the earth. As with all disruptive changes, no one can predict what eventually will be. What John points out to us, however, are the many sparks from this change that are lighting up all over the landscape. He shows us new communications-based devices of all kinds. He tells us about business patterns and mindsets adapting to video conferencing rather than face-to-face. He describes technology developments that are approaching real time presentation. He emphasizes, overall, that the people who have access to these capabilities today are willingly and enthusiastically absorbing them.
John Patrick, Vice President of Internet Technology at IBM Corporation, is internationally known as an Internet visionary. His responsibility at IBM is to be on top of everything happening as a result of the Internet. He travels all over the globe, wherever there’s an e-happening. This gives him a unique perspective of the widely divergent cultures adapting to the information age.
John lives in the greater Danbury area and is a special friend to DACS. This was the seventh annual meeting at which he has spoken to us. His visit is always the highlight of our year and the auditorium was packed, as always for a John Patrick program.
The magic carpet tour that John took us on looked down on seven of the internal forces that are causing this e-world to emerge. He described how they function, told us how they contribute to the overall capability, and showed us resulting products that are being used today.
These seven forces are:
Fast. “We are awash in bandwidth.” The telephone, cable, wireless, and satellite companies are all capable of delivering as much information as we can use. They are frantically competing with each other, which is good for us as users. Which delivery method (or methods) end up on top is life or death for them, but John was confident that the Internet would progress with any such method(s). Our concern is how to tap into and use all that information. Bandwidth is the key to moving on from watching, waiting, and then responding to a screen. Bandwidth makes for an interactive environment that has presence.
Always on and everywhere. E-capabilities are spreading out from the PC to portables, handheld devices, kiosks, home and office display panels, and more, ever more. The inevitable is an e-environment. The key insights here are inter-connectivity and addresses for everybody and everything. Examples he showed us included a portable weather box, a home command center controlling window blinds, heating, and various others. If it’s always on and everywhere, the time factor goes away.
Natural. Instant messaging is here. It opens up people contact at any time and makes traveling an indulgence, not a necessity. Language translation extends it all globally. His demo of conversing with a colleague in Germany with the computer translating between the languages was a showstopper
Intelligent. Application integration is the means of making everything work with everything else. This is the key to tying together the many and different aspects of everyday life.
Easy. We are moving beyond the browser. The frustrating and error-prone requirements of conforming to the browser are disappearing. The favorite device he showed us was the eGo portable MP3 player, from the i2Go company. With its optional IBM micro disk it can almost store enough music for 24/7.
Trusted. As functional capabilities develop, the means of supporting financial transactions will be accepted by people. Digital IDs for everyone will come about and become a part of everyday living. As John told us about the commonplace use of PDAs in Europe, we could see it coming.
The Q and A session covered the range of John’s talk. His answers, as usual, were concise and directly answered the question. Some of the highlights were:

John makes it very clear that he is not a prophet. There is no crystal ball in his backpack. He is a seer. He sees what is happening everywhere. It is his unique talent, however, to also see what is about to happen. And here is where we have so much to gain by listening up. So what should we be watching?

And then John gently brought his magic carpet back to now-earth and we were back in the auditorium. The meeting ended. A few went home with raffle prizes, all of us went home with something new to think about. The fortunate ones went home with a lot of things to think about.
Jack Corcoran is an old retired computer programmer who has enjoyed a magic carpet ride over the ever-changing computer landscape since the vacuum tube days. He can be contacted at [email][email protected][/email].