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I remember the Future

by by Ali Kayn

It's early morning in the future. Not just any future, this is the future where I have the ultimate say in how my technological servants perform.

I'm fast asleep and my bedroom assistant beeps. A short, discreet beep that I selected, not some nasty raucous noise that wakes me up in abject fright. Not someone else's idea of what's appropriate -- mine.

Next, according to my program, the BA plays one of the motivational recordings that I purchased a license for. It runs for 30 minutes. Today will be a busy day, I have to be bright, intelligent, on-the-ball, inspiring, so I had my electronic diary (calendar) set the BA to play an upbeat self-help tape on this morning. The diary lives on my personal information server, and send instructions to any linked equipment in my home, office, or my mobile assistant which is a combination phone and computer terminal.

After the self-help track, another beep sounds for 60 seconds. I selected the sound bite -- something to disturb my sleep, not scare me witless. The lights in my bedroom come up to half strength, and the heaters in my bedroom and bathroom start raising the temperature. I'm a sook -- I hate mornings a lot, but cold mornings -- Horror!!

I wake slowly. If I stand up as soon as the alarm goes off I pass out. Always. So I use my electronic diary and networked electronic equipment to wake me up over a period of an hour.

The bedroom assistant now sounds an alarm using the sound bites I selected at the intervals I set. I have progressively louder more intrusive noises and closer intervals. The alarms will keep sounding until I hit the off button, or after 2 hours. A friend sets his to only stop from a command in his study. That's the great thing about these systems, we set them to work with us, to enhance us, to complement our skills and weaknesses.

The cats, being self-programming devices, recognise the alarm and the rising lights. They climb onto the bed for their morning cuddle and jaw-scratching session. We catnap until a message I recorded plays: "Get up, now. You have 60 minutes to get to the Hewlett Packard presentation. The taxi is due in 40 minutes".

The nicest thing about my computer and electronic diary - they know what day it is. No more lying in bed trying to work out if it's Saturday yet. And no more arriving at work to find the place dark because, yep, it's a public holiday.

As I stumble into the bathroom, I listen for tones in my study. I like the modem to dial out on 'speaker' so that I can hear it connecting to the World Comms Net. While I withstand the shock of my morning mirror session (got to make a hairdressing appointment), shower, and so on, the modem connects to my communications service provider and starts pulling down my messages.

I wander into the study, still buttoning my shirt. I say, "Niles, show me the new messages list". (I recently bought the Daniel Davis 'butler sound bites set').

Voice recognition software

Voice recognition software is here today. See our review

The computer recognises me (by sampling my voice) and displays a list of messages. Not silly little pictures on a squidgy little window, a list in my favourite (technical) font face in the size I find easy to read. It lists the name of each sender for the message, the subject line, and the type of message: voice message, video message, mail text message, facsimile.

Where the sender is listed in my address book, my nickname for the person or company appears on the list. I quickly scan the message list. My mail software has applied my rules to the messages. Faxes have been converted to actual text (tiny thumbnail images are attached for security).

rolodex Anything with the words 'launch', 'preview', 'presentation', etcetera are listed together. My business contacts are separated from personal contacts (my address book has classifications and priority guidelines).

I spend 10 minutes going through the messages. The cats hover pointedly -- they want to be fed. I check the invitations against my diary. If I accept, the meeting is added to my diary, and an acceptance message goes into my out box.

Each meeting has 'tickler' fields. I can enter, now or later, whether I need a taxi to be called, and if so, how many minutes before the event. The computer will make that call using my account number and the taxi company knows my ID and will phone me if there is a problem. I've been using this facility since Arrow Taxis put me onto it in the early 1990s.

Some messages I quickly reply to, some I set to display next time I check in. I forward a copy of my bank statement to my book-keeper friend (and attach a cat photo, she is the Frankenstein who created my monsters). I quickly write a message to the bank asking them to send a copy to her every time.

The comms provider has sent me an invoice. I check off the items, international calls look okay to pay, and the local calls, but I have to check the mobile calls. I touch the 'pay selected' button on my screen. Maybe I should have a retinal scan system to doubly confirm my identity, but I hate them.

My home insurance is also due, I set the message to display again on Thursday night when I do my books.

The cats are getting noisy so I say, "Niles, skip the rest, close and deliver mail". Niles isn't the name of my computer system, it's the keyword that activates the voice-recognition system. Otherwise, how would the system know the difference between casual conversation, talking to myself or the cats, and giving orders to the system?

The printer spits out my daily diary sheet (I like a paper diary where I can tick off the things I've done). The modem connects to the comms provider; it will deliver the outgoing mail, sending transactions to pay my approved charges and invoices, then disconnect. My slim, neat, electronic databook is receiving my updated diary information by infrared, and displays a 'downloading' message.

Last month I picked it up too soon and walked out of range before the download completed. So now the mercury switch is activated during downloads and if I pick the databook up I get a sarcastic order to put it back until the transfer finishes.

While my techno-servants do their thing I feed the cats, find my shoes, check my briefcase, and try to remember where I took my watch off.

The phone rings. I say, "Niles, call monitor volume up". I hear my outgoing message, then the voice of a taxi driver. He's outside waiting for me.

I say, "Open call" and the intercom speaker phone in the wall picks up the phone call, I tell the taxi driver that I'm on my way down and he disconnects the call. My system automatically resets. I put my electronic diary and diary sheet into my briefcase and off I go.


One of the cool things about the new, small, devices, is that they can be installed into anything you want. Imagine an ultra-modern comms system built into this!

Once I close the door the alarm sets and locks all external doors. The lock won't activate unless one or more keys to the system is within scanning range outside the door. The cats are still in the house, but they have computer ID chips and the motion sensor, recognising their size and shape ignores them. The redirection of calls to my mobile phone/digital assistant is automatically cancelled.

Movie Reviews Index I love the future. Beam me through.

Bookmark and Share go to contents of current issue contents.jpg - 1911 Byteshome This essay is dedicated to the new Hewlett Packard hand-held range. My life and yours are still at the mercy of programmers and analysts whom we will never meet. But someday …

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ISSN 1328-8008
Published in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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