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The 'Intelligent Encyclopedia' of the future as imagined in 1982

The 'Intelligent Encyclopedia' of the future as imagined in 1982


A series of images from 1982 imagine an "Intelligent Encyclopedia" that can bring up information on almost anything and connect to other technology.

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After nearly 250 years, the Encyclopaedia Britannica is now being printed exclusively online. In honor of its transition, Bob Stein of the Institute for the Future of the Book has posted a set of images from 1982 that imagine how an "Intelligent Encyclopedia" might have been used by later generations. Designed by Stein along with Atari's Alan Kay and Disney animator Glenn Keane, the pictures show people using the encyclopedia as a universal, portable guide — not all that different from Wikipedia — that can be hooked up to televisions, headphones, or Atari flight simulation units.

Besides the obvious fact that nobody carries around a dedicated device just for encyclopedias, Stein says the biggest difference between these images and the reality of current "electronic encyclopedias" is the fact that we now use such devices to communicate with others, not just to look up information. "We completely missed the most important aspect of the network," he says, "that it was going to connect people to other people." Make sure to go through to the source for many more images and explanatory captions.