ETH Z├╝rich

Department of Computer Science
Distributed Systems Group

Fachseminar Ubiquitous Computing SS2000:

Geschichte und wegweisende Projekte des Ubiquitous Computing
Paul Miotti


The creation of tools (such as knives, jars or hammers) to facilitate everyday tasks represents the pinnacle of human intelligence. Computer science and its most recent development of "Ubiquitous Computing" signifies the latest advancement of mankind in making such tools that aim to simplify ordinary life. In contrast to the last 50 years of computing, not only specialized, highly trained experts will be the future users of most of the worlds computing power, but computer-illiterate laymen that often unconsioucsly will operate the most powerful appliances and programs. With the latest advancements in technology, the early visions of computer pioneers and visionaries will finally be able to come true at last: computers that will not try to replace humans, but act as their ultimate "intelligence amplifier" [Engelbart].

In my talk I want to span an arc from computer sience's early pioneers and visionaries to todays buzzwords of ubiquitiy, pervasiveness and invisibility. After introducing visionaries like Vannevar Bush and Doug Engelbart, I will try to outline how their ideas were transformed by Mark Weiser of Xeroc PARC into the vision of ubiquitous computing today. The early days of this field will be summarized by presenting a number of early projects, such as ActiveBadge and ParcTab. I will conclude my talk with a (selective) overview of current research groups in the field and give a brief sample of some of their projects.

Written Notes: [.html][.pdf]


The following is a list of pointers that provide background reading materials for the first talk in the Ubiquitous Computing Seminar at the Department of Computer Science at the ETH Zurich.


The following people have played an important role in the history of Personal Computing and ultimately Ubiquitous Computing. This list is based on a course reading list for Gregory Abowd's Georgia Tech Ubicomp class. See also its Reading Summary page for a quick overview of the cited papers.
Vannevar Bush
Bush was the first (back in 1945!) to propose that technology could be used to support information collection as well as information retrieval. His article "As We May Think" influenced the pioneers of personal and ubiquitous computing.
J.C.R. Licklider
Inspired by Bush's article, Licklider made his own predictions about the future role of computers in our society some 15 years later.
Douglas Engelbart
Doug Engelbart is the pioneer of interactive computing. He invented the first computer mouse, time sharing, windowing, or even hypermedia.
Mark Weiser
As chief technologist of Xerox PARC, Mark Weiser pioneered the field of ubiquitous computing. He passed away in April 1999. See also the comprehensive In Memoriam: Mark Weiser page at Stanford
Howard Reinhold's book "Tools for Thought" is also a great resource for historic facts of the early years of personal computing. Of particular interest are chapters 7, 9, 11 and 12, though all chapters are worthwhile reading!

Early Projects

Research Centers & their Projects

Taken, edited & expanded from Microsoft Research's Intelligent Environments Overview page. Projects are grouped into Information Appliances (A), Smart Environments (E), and Infrastructure (I). Note that most infrastructure stuff (such as Mobile Computing) is, together with Wearable Computing, in a separate section (although sometimes a mobile computing project might also appear in the main list below). Projects that set out to integrate smart environments, wearables, information appliances, and other related technologies into a single, comprehensive solution are indicated as Visions (V).

Research Projects & Systems

Research Hardware

Related Links

Last Updated: Tue Apr 11 20:28:01 MET DST 2000 ml