After seeing Superman III in Glasgow, I went into a phone booth to find the address of The Ubiquitous Chip, a restaurant so-named because in Scottish cuisine everything comes with chips. Since I was not able to read the small print, I motioned to a man passing by to read it for me. He was about the same age as me and, therefore, had degenerated to about the same extent - he couldn't read it either. Suddenly, simultaneously, we smiled. We had both just attended a movie in which the hero goes into a phone booth and can subsequently do incredible things. We go into a phone booth and can't even read the damn phone book.
One morning this Summer, I went over to the Gym Tech Health Club in the Four Seasons Hotel across the street. People were all a-twitter because Superman was using the gym. Christopher Reeve was in town making the movie Street Smart and was living in the Four Seasons hotel. I happened to have my Macintosh Plus with me in its Mac Pac, since I was heading for the Queen Elizabeth Hotel to give a talk about it. As I passed the Canadian Pacific station, I was reminded of my first steady job in Canada after I got off the boat thirty years ago as a clerk in CP's Auditor of Disbursements Department. There was great excitement about the first computer in the company. It filled a huge air-conditioned room, cost millions of dollars, had a score of high priests attending to it, and all we clerks were terrified that it was going to replace us.
Recently, I found out from someone still working there that this computer had a memory of 64K. That much memory is now available in children's toys or in the heel of your running shoe to measure how far you have jogged. Slung over my shoulder, I had 1024K - that is, sixteen times the memory available thirty years ago only to huge corporations for millions of dollars. It has since been augmented by a 20 megabyte hard disk - that is, 320 times the memory of that first CP computer. Superman has nothing on me. He has a few cheap physical tricks like flying and X-ray vision - I have incredible psychological power. Whereas a few years before, I had skulked off to The Ubiquitous Chip feeling very unsuper, now I waltzed along to The Queen Elizabeth feeling very powerful.
This book is named after that Glasgow restaurant, The Ubiquitous Chip. It is, of course, about the computer chip but, more precisely, as the subtitle says, about the human impact of electronic technology. That is, it is about that very justified fear we felt for our jobs at the Canadian Pacific when the computer arrived. It is also about that equally justified hope I felt for the augmentation of human potential as I waltzed off with my Mac Pac on my back.
My thanks to the creative person who named that restaurant and, hence, this book. My thanks also to the many people who contributed to it. Man does not write by Macintosh alone. I had more than a little help from my friends.
Colleagues helped. Kimon Valaskakis, Iris Fitzpatrick, Patrick Healey, Peter Sindell of the GAMMA Institute shared many ideas as we worked together on the various projects out of which this book was distilled. My new colleagues at the Department of Communication Studies, Concordia University are helping as they teach me how those projects relate to the media.
Contractors helped. Dorothy Phillips and Barbara Helm the Department of Communications of the Canadian Federal Government, Arthur Cordell of the Science Council of Canada, Edward Ploman of the United Nations University, Mike Hollinshead of the Department of Economic Development of the Government of Alberta, and many others invited me to think about various issues considered here. David Pankhurst of Canadian International Development Agency, Alan Mirabelle of the Vanier Institute of the Family, Paris Arnopoulos of the Canadian Association of Future Studies, Michael Sutton of the Association of Systems Managers, and many others invited me to speak to their organizations about those issues. The papers and talks triggered by those invitations are the soil out of which this book grew.
Finally, students helped. Many "audiences", in and out of my classroom, sent me back to the Mac again and again with quizzical expressions, when I was not being clear, and insistent questions when I was being clear but clearly wrong. The errors which remain are my own.