A Glimpse of the Past, One View of the Future
Who is Don Cowan?
 47 years at Waterloo
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Founding Chair Computer Science
Assoc Dir/Computing Centre in 60s (now IST)
Software engineering research
Helped found some of the spinoffs
 WATCOM (iAnywhere), LivePage (Oracle)
 Retired but still active in research
 Direct Computer Systems Group
WatITis | Life After 50 | December 4, 2007 | A Glimpse of the Past, One View of the Future
The Past - 40 years ago
 1967/68 – IBM 360/75
 The “Red Room” (in MC)
 Housed Canada’s largest computer
WatITis | Life After 50 | December 4, 2007 | A Glimpse of the Past, One View of the Future
The Past - 40 years ago
 1967/68 – IBM 360/75
 Backup for NASA space shots
 In several science fiction films
 Solid-state transistors – same as now
 Same function as today but bigger
 Solid state electronics around about 7 years in 67
 Early machines - IBM 1620/7090
 Transistor - ½ cm in diameter
 Today CPUs + memory like a speck of dust
(mote)
 Before 1960 - vacuum tubes (light bulbs with a
personality)
WatITis | Life After 50 | December 4, 2007 | A Glimpse of the Past, One View of the Future
The Past – some comparisons
 1967/68 - Central Processor
 1967 - Everyone used – IBM 360/75
 clock speed 1 MHz - $3,000,000
 2007 - Personal computer more powerful
 Laptop clock speed 2 GHz - $1,400
WatITis | Life After 50 | December 4, 2007 | A Glimpse of the Past, One View of the Future
The Past – some comparisons
 1967/68 - Random Access Memory
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1 megabyte - $2,000,000 - footprint – 3m x 1m
1 gigabyte $2,000,000,000
footprint 3,000 m2 (10 homes)
2007 – 1 gigabyte $9 thumb-size or less
WatITis | Life After 50 | December 4, 2007 | A Glimpse of the Past, One View of the Future
The Past – some comparisons
 1967/68 - Hard drives
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1967 – 8 drives X 28MB = 224MB - $500,000
Footprint – 4m x 1m
120 GB - $250,000,000 – 2,000m2 (7 homes)
2007 – 120 GB - $150 10cm X 10cm
WatITis | Life After 50 | December 4, 2007 | A Glimpse of the Past, One View of the Future
Celebrating software
 WATFOR/WATFIV/WATBOL/Janet … (Graham et al)
 High-speed debugging compilers/PC LANs
 MAPLE (Geddes, Gonnet)
 World’s leader in algebraic computation
 New Oxford English Dictionary (Tompa, Gonnet)
 First search engine, advance in tagging languages (XML)
 Sparse matrix software (George)
 Solving science/engineering problems faster
 Elliptic Curve Cryptography (Mullin, Vanstone,
Agnew)
 Latest advance in secure information exchange
WatITis | Life After 50 | December 4, 2007 | A Glimpse of the Past, One View of the Future
We’ve come a long way
 Hardware (faster, smaller, cheaper)
 In the 80s predicting $1,000 computers
 Premiums in cereal boxes (flash drives)
 Hardware as a commodity
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The $100 laptop
 Ray Kurzweil “The Singularity is Near”
predicts …
 Exponential growth
 Machine as extension of man
WatITis | Life After 50 | December 4, 2007 | A Glimpse of the Past, One View of the Future
But have we?
 Information is the lifeblood of an organization
 Yet building/evolving information systems is complex
 just plain hard
 Only relatively simple software a commodity
 Word processors, spreadsheets, blogs, wikis, facebook,
search engines …
 Software engineering is still a black art
 Still depend on the programming paradigm
 Only the language has changed not the techniques
 Hardware has gone from soldering to photo lithography
 The science/engineering of software has not kept pace
with hardware
WatITis | Life After 50 | December 4, 2007 | A Glimpse of the Past, One View of the Future
A comparison
 Interesting to compare with other areas
 Information technology harder than
relativity/quantum physics?
 Relativity/quantum physics knows the answer
not the question (Lederman)
 Information technology needs to know both
the answer and the question
 Because the possible uses of IT appear boundless
 Why we need requirements engineering
 We still have a long way to go
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What are the consequences?
WatITis | Life After 50 | December 4, 2007 | A Glimpse of the Past, One View of the Future
The consequences
 Disenfranchising much of society
 SMEs, NGOs, social support organizations,
even the health system
 Yet the Web is a powerful medium
 the medium of choice for the foreseeable future
 Not really using IT to benefit society
compared to what we could do
 We don’t understand the impact of software
on users
 What might be done?
WatITis | Life After 50 | December 4, 2007 | A Glimpse of the Past, One View of the Future
What might be done?
 Meet the challenges and expectations created
by the web’s ability to create and distribute
massive amounts of interactive information
 1. Lower technology barriers to software
requirements, development and evolution
 2. Understand the new IT paradigms such as
Web 2.0, mapping, social networking and
effective use
 3. Research and implement new approaches
to sustainability of web-based information
systems
WatITis | Life After 50 | December 4, 2007 | A Glimpse of the Past, One View of the Future
What might be done?
 1. Lowering technology barriers
 To implementation, evolution and
maintenance of web-based systems
 A paradigm shift - change the way systems are built
 WIDE toolkit
 Complete specification of a web-based system - both
services and control structures
 Completing forms and then transforming the resultant
data structures into “code.”
 Based on XML & XSL
 Service frameworks include I/O forms, mapping, agents,
search, push, content, security …
 Domain experts can build/maintain/evolve systems
 Changes cost almost the same at any stage
WatITis | Life After 50 | December 4, 2007 | A Glimpse of the Past, One View of the Future
What might be done?
 2. Understand the new IT paradigms
 Web 2.0 – what does it mean
 Collaboration - Wikinomics
 Mapping (most uses of mapping are simple)
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Social networking - blogs, wikis, facebook
Semantic search - more intelligent search
Sensible security & privacy, safety
Mobility & context awareness
 Location, proximity, time etc
 Active user participation in system build
 Rapid application development
WatITis | Life After 50 | December 4, 2007 | A Glimpse of the Past, One View of the Future
What might be done?
 3. Research and implement new
approaches to sustainability of webbased information systems.
 Data sustainability – keep it fresh
 Distributed and decentralized
 Networks of trust
 Technical sustainability
 Manage change – it’s inevitable!!!
 Financial sustainability - business models
 Identify sources of $$ - social enterprise
 Partnerships
WatITis | Life After 50 | December 4, 2007 | A Glimpse of the Past, One View of the Future
What have we done?
 Using these 3 guidelines
 Have built about 40 web-based operational
information systems.
 Four examples
 Stewardship Tracking System
 Project NOW – Immigrant Portal
 Volunteer Action Centre
 Performance Indicator Monitoring System
WatITis | Life After 50 | December 4, 2007 | A Glimpse of the Past, One View of the Future
com
Stewardship Tracking System
http://comap.ca/sts
Contact [email protected] for a userid and password.
Similarities of Other Approaches versus STS
WEB Site
Facebook / Blog
Mapping
Search Engine
Document Repository
Role-based
Security
Project NOW (Newcomers Online Waterloo)
http://www.newcomerswaterloo.ca
Volunteer Action Centre
http://www.volunteerkw.ca
Performance Indicators Monitoring System
Thank You
Comments!!
Questions??
WatITis | Life After 50 | December 4, 2007 | A Glimpse of the Past, One View of the Future
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