The Story Behind How Apple Predicted Siri and The iPad 3 Back In 1987 [Video]

A few weeks ago, we posted the video above to show how Apple saw Siri and the iPad coming back in 1987. We didn’t tell the story behind the video though, which is equally fascinating.

Back in 1986, Apple CEO John Sculley had a conversation with Apple Fellow Alan Kay, the revolutionary American computer scientist who coined the phrase “the best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

Kay pointed out to Sculley that almost all of Apple’s profits at the time came from the 512K Macintosh, Aldus PageMaker, Adobe’s Postscript and Apple’s LaserWriter 2.0 printer… all inventions that were lifted from Xerox PARC.

Then Kay said something chilling. “Next time, we won’t have Xerox.” Unless Apple started incubating its own great new ideas, the company would stagnate and wouldn’t have any new products down the road.

The result of Kay’s challenge to Sculley was this 1987 conceptual video of the Knowledge Navigator.

The idea was to embrace the adage that great ideas take twenty years from first inspiration to be ready for the consumer market, so the video imagines an Apple computer in 2009.

Except it’s not a computer. The Knowledge Navigator is actually an iPad. And in fact, while the design is clunky, the feature set is almost identical to what we’ll be seeing next year in the iPad 3, and many of the Knowledge Navigator’s functions seem like evolutionary ancestors to Siri, iCloud and more.

The iPad, of course, turned out to be a lot better than the Knowledge Navigator, and not just because it doesn’t come with a snooty virtual bow tie butler to lame things up. What’s so amazing, though, is that even without Steve Jobs, Apple was able to correctly anticipate the product they’d release in 2009. Well, okay… they were a little off. Can’t get ‘em all right.

You can read more about the Knowledge Navigator over at Forbes.

Related
  • jaime m

    they didn’t predict it, they just made it happen…

  • freedommcflyy

    Amazing! I hace an idea very close to this! Who can help me with it? 

  • Todd

    Maybe the author should read the Jobs biography. At one point before 1987, while he was still at Apple, Jobs said he wanted to create a personal computer that was like a book, but the technology wasn’t there yet. He was also interested in touch screens and flat panels very early on. It’s possible Kay and others at Apple after Jobs’ departure/ouster came up with the Knowledge Navigator completely on their own, but it’s also possible that they were remembering Jobs’ fantasy of what a personal computer should really be.

  • Chris

    Oh come on, we just had this video a few days before Siri was announced…and also the same story

  • Chris

    ok now is the time to learn crafting, AI will soon take over office jobs … oh right, crafting is done by robots… hm

  • nthnm

    Oooh. It even had Siri!

  • John Neumann

    If it involves sneaking into Xerox labs and poaching the latest in copy innovations, I’m with you!

  • kappesante

    there was another video about this navigator. the video seemed more like an ad, i had that video years ago, and now i can’t find it anymore :(

  • Phil

    Where you at Samsung? What were you doing in 1988? Restructuring a business model that would dedicate itself to copying other business and not contribute a single thing to this earth other than making the parts to great devices.

  • Gene

    “the feature set is almost identical to what we’ll be seeing next year in the iPad 3″
    Hmm. Do you have some psychic ability that others lack, or were you sleeping in Journalism 101?
    How about “the feature set is almost identical to the rumors surrounding a mooted iPad 3″?
    Not only is that more factual, but it protects you from ridicule when the iPad 3 actually arrives.

  • Crossphire Dev

    This is old news and I had seen this on other sites months ago.  When you add the other sensationalistic crap on here today the result is one less subscriber.  Later CoM.

  • Tom McGrath

    I wear a bow tie now. Bow ties are cool.

  • BrianVoll

    1980′s iPad running Mac OS…
    Also, would be very cool if I can change my voice mail to something Siri says instead of the regular AT&T bs.

  • Marcos

    Nice :)

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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