The Pre-History of the Internet of Things

I had no idea how long this notion had been around for. Blair Newman was a notoriously drug addled technologist (who once tried to claim cocaine as a business expense) into whose failed venture Microsoft ploughed $50,000 in the late 70s. At the same time, he was also kicking around the idea of an architecture for the Internet of things, predicated upon overly optimistic assumptions that have only recently been proved correct. Quoted from Gates, by Stephen Manes and Paul Andrews, loc 3423-3442

The idea, as expressed in an early document, was that “by the end of the 1980s, experts predict microprocessors will be a part of almost every electrical consumer product selling for more than $20.” The logical extension of this prediction—which actually turned out to be more or less true—was that for virtually no additional cost, these microprocessors could be designed to communicate with each other, forming “a modular intelligent network . . . the central nervous system of the microcomputerized home of the future.” Shades of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair! “Energy Conservation . . . Personal Safety . . . Convenience.” With Home Bus, you could remotely control everything from your blender to your hot tub. Newman’s Home Bus Standards Association, in conjunction with the research firm SRI International, would develop a single home bus standard that everyone could agree on, and chipmakers and home computer makers would jump gleefully on board. Bill Gates was one of the Association’s original three directors. An outfit called 3Com, masterminded by Robert Metcalfe, who had invented the seminal Ethernet computer network in his Xerox days, was doing Home Bus consulting for General Electric. The idea was that GE would produce its own computer—code name Homer—that could via some sort of network—Home Bus!—control all the GE toasters and blenders and dishwashers in the house.

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