(How to Avoid Being Roadkill on
the Information Superhighway)

1996 All Rights Reserved
Richard R. Orsinger


A. What's Past is Prelude--No Longer. If you are the kind of person who likes to plan, you use the past to project the future to guide you in the present. This was a very valid approach when the future was little different from the past. For much of human history, nothing changed for thousands of years. Then nothing changed for hundreds of years. More recently, nothing changed for decades. Not so now. Now things don't change only for years. The rate at which things are changing now is so fast that the past is no reliable indication of the future. The life patterns that worked for our grandparents and parents work less for ourselves, not very well for our children, and probably very little for our grandchildren.

With the rate of change being what it is, we are going to have to develop a different approach to projecting the future, if our expectations of the future are to guide us well in the present. And the most frightening thing is the fact that not only are things changing more quickly than they used to, but the rate at which things are changing is increasing.

B. Change in the Rate of Change. Mechanics (the science of motion) recognizes the difference between speed (rate of change of distance over time) and acceleration (change in the rate of change). You can drive somewhere at 30 m.p.h., or you can drive somewhere at 60 m.p.h. After you do it for a while you get adjusted to the speed. But what if you are accelerating? How do you adjust to a particular speed when the speed is constantly increasing? How much more difficult is it to adjust when you are accelerating at an accelerating rate? This is happening to our life patterns.

C. A Sampling of Progress in Travel and Communication. As noted above, for many years, the way people lived their lives never changed. The actors changed, but the script was the same. Imagine the following chronology (I say imagine because techniques did not develop uniformly at different places, and some of the following demarcations are fuzzy, but we can imagine without debating accuracy). The emphasis is on transportation, and communication. Computers are included because they are fast becoming a communication tool (and will in fact supplant other communication tools such as the television and the telephone). Note the increasing pace of change. [If this historical sketch doesn't interest you, skip to year 1945 and read on.]

The Paleolithic Period (Old Stone Age) lasted from 2 million B.C.E. to 10,000 B.C.E. Humans developed from ape-like to homo sapien. Humans hunted animals and gathered plants. Use of bone and chipped-stone tools. No metals or pottery. Humans begin building the first shelters. 14,000 B.C.E., Lascaux cave paintings (one of oldest existing communications)

The Mesolithic Period (Middle Stone Age) lasted from 10,000 B.C.E to 2,700 B.C.E. Glaciers receded. Humans began communal hunting, fishing and gathering food. Gradual progress from food collecting to food producing. Around 7,000 B.C.E., fired clay pottery was invented.

The Neolithic Period (New Stone Age) lasted from 8,000 B.C.E. to 2,000 B.C.E. Humans developed polished stone tools, domesticated plants and animals, and formed settled communities. Around 5,000 B.C.E., Chinese started construction on the Grand Canal, with work to continue for 2,000 years. Around 4,000 B.C.E., the wheel was invented in Mesopotamia.

The Bronze Age lasted from 3,500 B.C.E to 1,200 B.C.E. In 3,500 B.C.E., bread was invented in Egypt. Humans began to smelt metals (copper and bronze), requiring specialization of labor between industry and agriculture (surplus food needed to support the artisan class). Humans developed urban centers. The search for raw materials for smelting spawned exploration and colonization. Around 3,100 B.C.E., Egyptians began record-keeping incident to administrative government. Around 3,000 B.C.E., Sumerians developed 2-wheeled carts, and divided the day into 24 hours, the hour into 60 minutes, the minute into 60 seconds, and the circle into 360 degrees. In 2,400 B.C.E., papyrus was first used for writing in Egypt. Around 2,000 B.C.E., horses were first used to pull chariots.

The Iron Age lasted from 1200 to 550 B.C.E. With the fall of the Hittite Empire, which had kept iron smelting secret and restricted the export of iron weapons, iron working techniques began to spread through the Middle East and Southern Europe. Celtic migration spread them to Western Europe and the British Isles. Ox-drawn plows were used, as were wheeled vehicles. Villages were fortified.

1,000 B.C.E., Chinese constructed the first permanent road system.

750 B.C.E., horseriding developed.

221 B.C.E., first emperor of China, Qin Shihuangdi, established a uniform system of law, government, taxes, currency and writing, and began a vast network of roads and canals in China.

200 to 0 B.C.E, Chinese Han dynasty invented paper, movable type, and iron horseshoes. Also harnessed natural gas. [Movable type "invented" in Europe 1,500 years later.]

77 B.C.E., Roman Pliny (the Elder) published the first encyclopedia, Historia Naturalis.

46 B.C.E., Julius Caesar instituted first news media, the Acta Diurna, posted daily in public places in Rome.

20 B.C.E., Romans compiled the first general dictionary.

476, fall of Western Roman Empire. Comprehensive road building ceased in Europe until early 18th century.

1454, first document printed in Europe from movable type (Gutenberg). (At the time, there were 30,000 books in Europe. By the year 1500, there were 9 million.)

1476, first mechanically printed book in English language, on rules of chess.

1543, Copernicus published book asserting that earth circles the sun.

1657, postal service established in England.

1702, first daily newspaper started in England.

1716, France created the Bridge and Highway Corps, the first modern government agency for building roads.

1771, A Society of Gentlemen in Scotland published the "Encyclopedia Britannica; or a Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, compiled upon a new plan in which the different sciences and arts are digested into distinct treatises or systems; and the various technical terms, etc. are explained as they occur in the order of the alphabet."

1783, first ascent by human in a balloon, in France.

1785, first balloon flight across the English Channel.

1792, first turnpike in USA built, the Lancaster Turnpike in Pennsylvania.

1793, revolutionary France constructs an optical "télégraphe" network to speed up military communications.

1817, New York state began construction of Erie Canal, linking Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean; completed in 1825.

1825, first public railroad initiated in England, using a steam engine.

1826, world's first photograph.

1830, steam-powered railroad established in USA.

1844, first telegraph message from Washington to Baltimore (40 miles); first book containing photographs published.

1845, England and France connected by submarine telegraphic cable.

1859, Darwin published The Origin of Species.

1860, start of Pony Express, carrying mail by horseback for the 2,000 miles between the western end of the telegraph line (St. Joseph, Mo.) and Sacramento, California, in 8 days.

1861, first telegram transmitted to San Francisco, California, effectively supplanting the Pony Express.

1866, transatlantic telegraph cable laid.

1869, completion of transcontinental railroad in USA.

1876, telephone patented.

1878, Edison patented the phonograph, the first device to record the human voice.

1881, Edison created the first permanent central electric light power plant (the Pearl Street Plant, in New York City).

1887, discovery of radio waves.

1894, Daimler Company in Germany manufactured the first modern car.

1895, wireless telegraph demonstrated. Lumière Bros. in France show the first moving pictures (two 60-second reels).

1901, letter "S" transmitted across the Atlantic Ocean by wireless telegraph.

1903, first manned, power-driven, airplane flight by human (12 seconds).

1906, first radio broadcast in USA.

1908, first color photograph; Henry Ford produced the first Model T automobile.

1909, first airplane flight across the English Channel.

1913, receiver patented, permitting use of radio to transmit voice.

1918, first airmail service organized under the U.S. Postal Service. Between 1919 and 1926, 31 of the 40 pilots hired by the U.S. Postal Service were killed flying the mail.

1919, first trans-Atlantic flight. Passenger airplane service initiated between London and Paris.

1920, first regular broadcast radio station, KDKA, established in Pittsburgh, Pa.

1925, first electrical recording of voice.

1926, first liquid-fueled rocket flies.

1934, transpacific airmail service established.

1936, first telephone message transmitted by coaxial cable from New York City to Philadelphia.

1939, Germans made first jet-powered airplane; transatlantic air mail and passenger service established.

1940, opening of the first multilane superhighway in USA, the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

1945, first nuclear explosion; first televisions reached consumers. Vannevar Bush (President Roosevelt's Science Advisor during World War II) published As We May Think, in Atlantic Monthly, projecting devices which store and rapidly retrieve documents, and permit links between documents, constituting a personal "memory bank."

1946, ENIAC (first electronic digital computer) put into operation. ENIAC, which used punched cards for input and output data, contained 17,000 vacuum tubes, weighed over 30 tons, and occupied a 30' by 50' room. See

1948, transistor invented at Bell Labs, in USA; replaces vacuum tubes; garners Nobel Prize.

1952, first commercial jet transportation, from London to Johannesburg.

1954, Texas Instruments started commercial production of silicon transistors.

1956, IBM invented the first computer disk using random access storage. Construction begins on USA's interstate highway system.

1957, Russians launched first satellite to orbit the earth (Sputnik 1--the size of a soccer ball). In response, USA created ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency) within the Dep't of Defense to recapture lead from the Russians on the military front. ARPA decided to establish decentralized computer communication network that would survive nuclear war--the foundation for the Internet.

1958, introduction of Boeing 707, first successful jetliner. Texas Instruments demonstrates the first integrated circuit.

1959 UCLA established the first site on what would later become the Internet.

1960, laser invented; first miniature transistor etched onto surface of silicon wafer.

1961, first man in space.

1962, Telstar 1, first active communications satellites, placed in orbit; first live television broadcast from Europe to USA.

1964, BASIC programming language created at Dartmouth College. IBM coined term "word processing."

1965, Ted Nelson coined the word "hypertext;" computer "mouse" invented as input device for graphical user interface. See

1966, 3-day-old film of Vietnam War appeared on nightly network news in USA.

1968, Intel Corporation founded, later to become world's leading producer of microchips.

1969, live television transmission of man first setting foot on the moon.

1970, IBM invented the floppy disk.

1974, William Henry Gates, III (age 19) [see his C.V. at; and biography at] and Paul Allen establish forerunner of Microsoft Co.; Gates now one of the richest persons in America ($13 billion).

1975, Popular Science featured a mini-computer, for assembly from a kit, called the Altair 8800 (named after a planet visited by the crew of the Enterprise on a Star Trek adventure). It had 8k of memory, and used toggle switches for input and blinking red lights for output. Steve Wozniak saw the article, decided to attach a keyboard as an input device and market a preassembled "personal computer," later known as the Apple I. Gates and Allen wrote BASIC for the Altair, the first programming language written for a personal computer. See

1977, Jobs and Wozniak incorporated Apple Computer Company.

1980, Microsoft contracted to produce the operating system for IBM's forthcoming personal computer; Tim Berners-Lee implemented a computer program that "linked" between computer files on the same computer.

1981 (8/12), IBM began selling its personal computer, legitimizing the personal computer in the eyes of business people.

1982, introduction of TCP/IP, a computer "language" that permitted all types of computers to "talk" to each other.

1984, Hewlett Packard introduced the LaserJet printer ($3,600.00).

1986, Microsoft went public, raising $ 61 million.

1990 (Jan. 15), AT&T's long distance phone system crashed due to a software glitch, obstructing 10's of millions of calls; initial prototype of the World Wide Web developed.

1991, opening Allied attack on Baghdad, Iraq, broadcast live on CNN, in Persian Gulf War []; Tim Berners-Lee brought up the World Wide Web on the Internet; criminal suspect, Rodney King, was beaten by Los Angeles police, all recorded on videotape that received extensive play in the media. [].

1992, jury verdict acquitting police who beat King caused $1 billion riot in Los Angeles. USA's first multi-services all-digital telephone network [ISDN] launched.

1993, creation of first graphical user interface for the World Wide Web, NCSA's Mosaic "browser." U.S. White House comes on-line the World Wide Web.

1994, first flower shop takes order for flowers over the Internet.

1996 (Aug. 7), America On-Line crashes and is out-of-service for 12 hours. Rumor is that a virus penetrated AOL's main computer.

d. Predictions About the Future. The only thing certain about the future is that the future is uncertain. Some of the most convincing prognosticators are not futurists, but science fiction writers. However, George Orwell's 1984 came and went, with no monolithic dictatorial world order. Arthur C. Clarke's manned expedition to Jupiter's moons will not lift off by 2001. [By the way, 2001, not 2000, is the first year of the new century and new millennium.] Besides, we can count on the fact that we will live out our life patterns in predictable ways, regardless of the technology that surrounds us. Still, changes in technology will have a significant impact on our lives. Bearing this in mind, the Author makes the following predictions about the impact of technology on our professional lives in the future.

Within 3 Years:

You will stop buying hard-bound copies of West's South Western Reporter System, if you haven't already. Appellate cases on CD-ROM will replace hard-bound reporters. The value of law book libraries will plummet [actually, have already plummeted] from thousands of dollars to a few dollars. [Bexar County recently cancelled its subscriptions to West's Texas cases and statutes (one of each per district and county court at law judge) and auctioned off the existing sets. The county realized that it is cheaper to buy each judge a computer and the cases and statutes on CD-ROM than to subscribe to the books. Plus, a computer can do so much more than just display legal text. At the auction, entire sets of S.W.2d reporters sold for $5.00 apiece.] Unedited appellate opinions will be available for free on-line. A vendor neutral citation system to appellate opinions will exist, with jump cites to numbered paragraphs, not to copyrighted reporter system page numbers. The ABA recently endorsed such a method. [See ABA Special Committee on Citation Issues,]

You will telecommute to work at least one out of 15 workdays.

You will "attend" some meetings by teleconference, instead of traveling to the meeting. Even now, Southwestern Bell Telephone Company provides a video-conferencing service, called Multipoint Video Service (MVS), where three or more locations can participate in a video-conference at the same time. "The bridging or connection of the video calls from multiple sites is accomplished at the Southwestern Bell central office by means of a multipoint control unit (MCU). When the various sites call the designated conference telephone numbers at the predetermined date and time, they connect to a port on the MCU (i.e. bridge). The MCU, a box-like unit, allows all the sites to see and hear each other as part of one big video call." See

You will dictate directly to your computer, which will type documents for you. (Actually, you can do this now.) Sound will be a prominent feature of using computers. Your computer will give you verbal as well as visual cues. (Remember the HAL 9000 computer in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey--by the way, increment each letter in HAL by one letter of the alphabet.) "The primary channel of communication between computers and users during the next millerium will be speech--people talking to computers and computers talking back." Nicholas Negraponte, "Message 38," 4.08 WIRED Magazine (August, 1996).

The computer and the telephone will merge into one instrument. Through your computer, you will be able to speak with anyone anywhere in the world on the Internet, and your computer will translate the other person's speech into your own language. There will be no long distance charge. Most on-line users will know how to type and read American English, which will become the lingua franca of the Internet. Even now, Southwestern Bell Telephone Company is selling software, called PC Manager, Windows-based, IBM-compatible computer telephony integration (CTI) software which enables you to manage your telephone calls more efficiently by allowing you to graphically recreate your telephone on a computer screen. With PC Phone Manager, you can perform almost any phone function by pointing and clicking with your mouse. PC Manager is available in Spanish and English and is priced at $89.95 + $6.95 shipping and handling. See

Some trial courts will be using software that instantly converts courtroom voices into text automatically.

You will file some of your statements of facts in the appellate court on searchable CD-ROM instead of paper.

Some appellate advocates will move the court, and will be permitted, to give a video-based audio-visual presentation on a monitor in the courtroom in lieu of oral argument.

You will journey out into the Internet at least three times a week. Preparing a Web page will be as simple as typing a wordprocessing document, and you will have your own page on the World Wide Web.

On-line electronic law journals will begin to proliferate. [The Appellate Practice & Advocacy Section has an electronic Section Report at] E-journals will specialize in narrow areas. "The next decade could witness the end of the law review as we know it." Hibbitts, Bernard J., Last Writes? Re-Assessing the Law Review in the Age of Cyberspace,

Within 10 Years:

With the information superhighway in place, through either co-axial cable, fiberoptic cable or satellites, you will have 500 television channels. You can order the programs or movies you want to see, at the time you want to see them. With a cable modem your computer can receive massive amounts of data in seconds.

There will be a blurred distinction between your hard disk drive, your CD-ROM drive, other drives on your network, and other drives available through the Internet. Through the Internet you will be linked to millions of hard drives all over the world. When you "retrieve" a file, your software will seamlessly do what it takes to get it to your screen, even if the file is in a computer in Bangladesh.

More and more products and services will be available to consumers, directly from the manufacturer through computers in the home and office, eliminating the need for middlemen, like local store owners. Banks will charge you $3.50 to transact business with a teller, in an effort to encourage remote electronic banking. New cars will be purchased over the Internet, squeezing out the dealers as unnecessary middlemen.

The World Wide Web will have many "virtual reality" sites, where you will be able to float or fly, touch and move objects, etc. Some consumers will "walk" down the aisles of virtual grocery stores, making purchases which are charged and then delivered to the home.

You will access the Internet every day, through a software program, called an "agent." Your agent will monitor the Internet for information you are interested in, and will dutifully report that information back to you, without your having to "go out onto the Net" manually.

E-mail will be the dominant interpersonal communication medium, exceeding voice communications. (From "being digital," by Nicholas Negroponte, founding director of MIT Media Lab,

Industries will be changing so rapidly that many high school seniors will get jobs after college that haven't yet been invented when they graduate from high school.

Texas statutes will be almost fully codified, and no one publisher will have a "corner" on publishing current statutes.

You will telecommute to work at least one day a week. You will sometimes arrive late or leave early from work and make up time from your home, using remote computer access from home to office.

Witnesses will testify "live" in trial from remote locations by videolink. Some Texas trial courts will digitally record videoimages of testimony and will forward a statement of facts to the appellate court on CD-ROM with written transcription correlated to videotrack. This will embolden courts of appeals to be more activist in reversing for factual insufficiency of the evidence.

Some courts will accept multi-media briefs, limited by length of run-time rather than pages. The briefs will be on CD's, will include sounds and moving graphics, and will permit "stop-action" with hypertext links built into the frozen frame, so court personnel can check record references. Clips of actual testimony will be part of the multi-media presentation. A good appellate advocate will have or will develop skills in shooting and editing movies.

There will be a glut of Texas lawyers, resulting in a depression of attorney's fees in some areas of practice.

Some appellate entrepreneurs will semi-automate briefwriting based on inputting case-specific information which is plugged into canned legal arguments to generate first draft briefs, which are then molded and polished into a final product. Such briefs will be priced as a commodity. The brief will be sold to the lawyer, not the client, to insulate from malpractice claims.

The volume of appeals will be so high that courts of appeals will stop granting oral argument in all civil case and will instead schedule oral argument on a discretionary basis. As a substitute some appellate courts will seek interaction with appellate advocates by issuing letters or orders specifying questions that the court has, asking for written responses. This will permit interactivity, but on an asynchronous basis, as opposed to the synchronicity of oral argument.

Pro se litigants will make up a significant portion of the courts' dockets, being assisted by computer-generated forms and "how to" manuals. [Remember DeBakey telling people to go on the Internet to diagnose their own illnesses.] This will be a reflection of the trend, enhanced by the Internet, to eliminate the middleman between the consumer and the product or service. In the legal context, the consumers are the clients, the middlemen are the lawyers, and the service is the outcome of the legal process (e.g., a divorce, recovery of damages, etc.). Wal-Mart is an example of the trend to reduce prices by cutting out the middleman. So is Dell Computers, which sells millions of dollars of computers each year, by telephone with no middlemen. "[C]onsumers will shop over the net, saving money by automating comparison shopping, cutting out intermediaries, and taking advantage of heavy shopper bonuses. A new generation of yellow pages will become popular on the network and become an important way that consumers find merchants and suppliers." Results of the Great Infrastructure Debate (An Industry Leader Symposium by NCRI),

Big law firms will largely be supplanted by smaller specialty firms and sole practitioners who affiliate with each other on a case-by-case basis. Lead lawyers will assemble teams for large transactions or particular lawsuits. Ethics rules in Texas will be relaxed to accommodate this arrangement by use of "Chinese Walls." Such affiliations will be assisted by collaborative software that permits many people in different places to work on the same project, and by electronic interlinking of the different firms that are working on a joint project.

You will have your own personal communication number that people can "call" to communicate with you. Communications systems will be able to locate you anywhere in the world. People will call a "person," and not a "place." You will use voice mail and not a secretary to screen calls.

Videophones will have widespread use in business. However, the videophone will really be a computer, not a telephone. You will have a small videocamera on top of your computer monitor and a speaker on the bottom of it, which you will use for video conferences.

Since all appellate opinions are available in electronic form, service companies using automated computer programs will offer you statistical "profiles" of appellate courts and appellate judges on those courts. You will know what percent of summary judgments a particular justice has voted to uphold or overturn. Services will also offer you sample language from the justices' opinions to use in your brief.

Your computer's user interface will be a "persona" (life-like computer character) of your choosing. [Microsoft is now working on a parrot, named Peedy]. See You will speak to your computer and your computer will speak to you. You will relate to your computer as a person, while knowing that it is a machine. Tests show that gender biases and gender expectations carry over to the computer, depending on whether the computer persona is male or female.

"Virtual universities" will offer courses through videolink and the Internet. People will take college courses from the country's most popular professors, without leaving their office or home. Attendance at expensive "bricks and mortar" universities with their budgets bloated by professors who cannot be terminated due to the tenure system, will drop, driving tuition up, which will cause attendance to drop even more. Private universities will merge or specialize to survive.

Because most law school graduates cannot get jobs and will have to "hang out their shingle," law schools will offer a clinical curriculum for 3rd year students, and will limit pure "book learning" to the first two years of law school. Some law instruction will be based on individual interactive computer training, as opposed to classroom lecture.

Preliminary scoring of the essay portion of the Texas Bar Exam will be done by a computer program, which will propose a grade and will select representative passages to be reviewed by the human grader.

There will be three women serving on the Texas Supreme Court. Three of the chief justices of Texas courts of appeals will be women. Texas appellate courts will be networked internally and with each other.

You will give oral argument to appellate courts in other towns by videolink from your home town. [The El Paso Court of Appeals has this capability already.]

Political pressure from authors and publishers will prompt the U.S. Government to enforce intellectual property rights through criminal prosecution, and not merely by permitting lawsuits for money damages or injunctions against individuals with no locatable assets. Federal CyberCops will conduct raids reminiscent of raids staged by "The Untouchables" during Prohibition in Chicago, targeting profiteers as well as cybernetic Robin Hoods who disseminate software and data cheaply or for free in derogation of the copyrights of the owners.

The U.S. Government and other private parties will have access to all internet communications. Privacy will be assured, not by denying access to the communications medium, but by encrypting communications so that they cannot be read by anyone but the recipient.

The primacy of books will be challenged by a hand-held, lightweight, portable, radio-linked sheet of plastic which will respond to voice and touch commands and which will display the image of a book page, movie, etc. Wall-sized projection screens will display computer-transmitted information. You will be able to get eyeglasses that project computer-transmitted information before your very eyes. You will not have to "sit at the computer" in order to see the computer's visual output.

E. An Interview With Bill Gates, the Richest Man in America.

Excerpts of Online Chat with Bill Gates

April 17, 1996

Hello All! Thanks for joining us today as we celebrate the cyberlaunch of Libraries Online!

Libraries Online! is a partnership between Microsoft and the American Library Association to provide public access to the Internet and multimedia computers nationwide, especially in disadvantaged communities.

Right now MSN [Microsoft Network] is celebrating National Library Week, which this year focuses on connecting the public with electronic information.

We're honored to have with us today Microsoft Chairman and CEO Bill Gates and nine public library recipients around the country-from New York to Los Angeles.

* * *

Q. Computers today can basically do anything. What can't they do currently that you would like to see them be able to do in the future?

A. Bill Gates: The biggest change coming in computers will be the ability to understand spoken language and handwritten text. Once we can interact in a natural way then the computer can become part of every day life. Also flat screens will make a big difference since they can be portable and very high resolution.

* * *

Q. My question for you is - libraries are constantly planning for the future, what should we be anticipating in terms of new technologies and developments in telecommunications?

A. Bill Gates: The basic analogy is that libraries should play the same role with computer information as they played with information in books. The Internet is the biggest thing happening today. The material on the internet is going to get richer and richer - 3d interaction, quizzing and lots of animation. Getting up to date PCs is the best way to make sure all these new things will work in your library.

* * *

Q. One of my favorite library activities is browsing through the stacks, coming upon an interesting item serendipitously. Can you envision an online version of this typical public library experience?

A. Bill Gates: There are many types of documents. A document which is a list of information like a catalog is superior in electronic form because of the flexibility. A fiction book which you read from start to finish is not improved by being electronic. In fact the computer makes it a lot harder to read. We are going to have a mix of books and computers for many decades to come. People love to take a book with them and read it. However computers can provide serendipity as well.

* * *

Q. Will new technology make books obsolete?

A. Bill Gates: People will always want to read the same kind of things they read today. It is possible that super cheap high resolution screens that are like a tablet of paper and you can carry with you including taking them with you to read in bed will eventually be better than ink on paper. However it doesn't change any of the values of great writing.

* * *

Q. How does Mr. Gates see publishers fitting into the equation?

A. Bill Gates: Publishers do a lot of things. They provide an advance which is often critical! They help with editing. They help with manufacturing and distribution. On the Internet the last 2 will be easier but it means that marketing will be even more important. Someone could decide to self-publish on the Internet but the challenge will be getting people's attention when so much material will be published.

* * *

Q. Currently there aren't many books that have been digitized for distribution on the internet. What is Microsoft doing to get publishers to distribute their titles this way? And how would the publishers get their money back?

A. Bill Gates: The Internet is in an early stage where not much money is being spent on the Internet. We have worked with Visa and Mastercharge to set standards so that its easy to charge on the Internet. Having these standards is critical to getting publishing going on the Internet. Most books are created with word processors today so the effort to publish on the Internet will be quite small when the business incentives are clear.

* * *

Q. What is your position on the recent Telecommunications Act, and the impacts it is bound to have on Internet users of younger generations?

A. Bill Gates: The Telecom bill was a good step forward. It encourages the cable and phone companies to invest more and compete with each other. It wasn't perfect - in fact Microsoft is one of a group challenging part of the bill. A younger generation will see the speed of communications going up every year so that eventually you will have 'broadband' connections into homes. Today we have to use modems at 28.8k but that will improve.

* * *

Q. With all the information available on the Internet, how can individuals protect their privacy in regards to their homes, their financial, legal, or medical records?

A. Bill Gates: Everyone's financial and medical data has been one computers for a long time. Its a political question what the rules should be for the use of the information. The technology exists to protect the information. There are some interesting tradeoffs in terms of whether the police or insurance companies or employers are allowed to see various types of information. This will be a hot political issue for decades to come and different countries will come up with different solutions.

* * *

Q. Mr. Gates, I am a student at Washington Middle School I want to know if you have ever thought about the ideal computer, if so what would its size be, what special functions would it have, and do you think Microsoft can create it ?

A. Bill Gates: An ideal computer would be better than a human assistant. It would speak, listen, watch. It would remember everything. It would be small enough to carry around. We are many decades away from achieving this. I doubt it will happen in my lifetime.

* * *

Q. How will we deal with copyright issue on the Internet?

A. Bill Gates: I talk about this some in my book. The simplest way to handle it is that you pay a fee for the right to read a book and everyone who reads the book pays the same fee. You will be able to lend your rights out to other people but only to one at a time. In the electronic world you get more ability to charge different prices based on who is using the book. For example you could say that in libraries there is no fee or a smaller fee. You could say that poorer people pay less. This will all be determined through lots of experiments and competition.

* * *

Q. How concerned should users be about potential viruses as the internet continues to expand?

A. Bill Gates: Companies like Microsoft are working on solutions to the virus problem. The basic approach is that you will have a list of companies and people you trust and only code they have 'blessed' will come onto your machine. Viruses are a nuisance today. If you back up your machines regularly and take basic precautions they are not a huge problem.

* * *

Q. Do you think there is any future in the idea of talking books online? That is to say, do you think there will come a time when the full text of books or magazines is available--read by a human-sounding voice, with good quality audio--online and accessible to those who cannot read regular print and may not have a great deal of technological expertise?

A. Bill Gates: The Internet already does a good job with audio. Technologies like RealAudio allow you to listen to radio broadcasts or sports events already. Once the charging mechanisms are in place I think lots of people will download audio books to their portable computer and be able to listen anywhere they like.

* * *

Q. Mr. Gates - From your own perspective, will electronic audio and video replace much of the printed information today?

A. Bill Gates: We've already seen competition between radio, TV and print. TV has captured most of the income but radio and print are still a very big deal. I don't know many people who have canceled magazine subscriptions or newspaper subscriptions because they can find information on the Internet although once we improve PCs a lot then this will start to happen. The marketplace will decide on this one.

* * *

Q. How far away in the future will voice input do away with the keyboard?

A. Bill Gates: There have been optimistic projections on this for the last 20 years that were not achieved. However voice recognition is getting better and better. I think within the next 5-10 years voice will be a key input technology - it won't replace the keyboard but be used together with it.

* * *

Q. Mr. Gates - Do you see "Books On Demand" as a precursor to "Video On Demand", which the cable companies do not seem to be able to offer yet?

A. Bill Gates: Video requires more bandwidth than anything else. It will be a long time before most homes have broadband ( the bandwidth required to send quality video on demand ). The trend is in that direction but unlike the predictions of Interactive TV a few years ago now phone companies and cable companies are more realistic that the process of increasing bandwidth will take time.

* * *

Q. But I think, reading books on the PC screen, is not very comfortable. With a real book, you can sit and lie, everywhere you want, while you are reading the book. Your thoughts?

A. Bill Gates: This is absolutely right. We have to get a screen that is as small and portable as a book before fiction will ever be read off of a screen. However there are documents where the tradeoff of using a computer screen makes a lot of sense already. The best selling encyclopedia is now our CD-ROM encyclopedia and the material is more up to date, more interlined and more engaging than print.

* * *

Q. Mr. Gates, There seems to be 'tons' of information online on just about any topic imaginable. However much of it is not of very high quality. How do you see the issue of quantity verses quality evolving.

A. Bill Gates: Another good point. In the future most of what you choose to read on the Internet will come directly or indirectly from sources you trust. That is unless a friend or a branded journal that you know encourages you to go look at something you will rarely take time to look. This will help you find things that are more accurate and relevant. Sometimes however you might still want to wander around and see what random things are out there.

* * *

Q. Mr. Gates. What technological achievements do you 'personally' think still need to be made to reach your dream of a computer on every desktop?

A. Bill Gates: I think the Internet is a big step to achieve this because it makes the computer relevant to people who never considered it before. The idea of getting to every single desktop was always a little idealistic - we will never get to 100%. However I think we can get to a very high percentage within the next decade as we bring voice, video, and ease of use. The PC will be an appliance that people take for granted. There is a lot of hardware and software improvement required. We will look back on today's machines and see them as completely impossible. This challenge is what makes my job a lot of fun.

F. More From Bill Gates. The following excerpts are from an interview with Bill Gates, entitled "Success Lies in Thinking Long-Term (7/18/95).

"My success in business has largely been the result of my ability to focus on long-term goals and ignore short -term distractions. Taking a long- term view doesn't require brilliance but it does require dedication.

* * *

"A decade ago I foresaw software on compact discs, and Microsoft got way out in front on that one. The market took years longer to develop than I expected, but we kept investing for the long term. This strategy has proven very valuable.

"Much more recently I've concluded that the wild success of the Internet signals a massive structural change in the computing and communications industries.

"I have long expected computer networks to achieve historic importance, but it has only been in recent months that I've come to expect the Internet to become mainstream.

"My thinking changed when I realized that communications costs are coming down so astonishingly fast that the Internet can, in the foreseeable future, evolve into a network able to serve hundreds of millions of people. Technical obstacles to the Internet's success are falling by the wayside.

"This sea change is prompting us to critically reevaluate our plans - short -term and long-term.

"One of our highest priorities has become building extensive Internet support into Windows, for example. And the Microsoft Network, like other commercial on-line services such as CompuServe and Prodigy, is evolving to become a part of the Internet rather than strongly distinct from it.

"I doubt that even a year or two ago any of the on-line services foresaw the Internet assuming an overarching role. But now that the sea change is becoming apparent, services are rushing to embrace it.

"This is exactly the right thing to do. When change is inevitable, you must spot it, embrace it and find ways to make it work for you."


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Created August 28, 1996
Last updated August 28, 1996