Director, International Informatics Institute
Editor, Pervasive.TV and HealthcareNBIC.org
INFORMAL BIO What a great time to be alive! My roots are in the printing and publishing business: I've worked as a newspaper reporter, a magazine writer and columnist, a programmer, a college teacher, a publisher and a video producer. I've written five books, sold print advertising and typesetting computers, developed one of the earliest on-line service bureaus, and worked on the first computerized Yellow Pages here in New York.
When I took a hard look at the future of media and communications technologies in 1982 (about seven months after the first IBM PC and a couple of years before the original Macintosh), I was excited by the promise of the emerging digital revolution and struck by the gap between what new technologies can do versus our ability to understand and apply them effectively. The best thing I could think to do was start a research shop that would study the evolution of communications in all of its developing forms and that could help people use the new tools to make better media. I pulled together a team of specialists in the key areas and started the Graphics Research Laboratory, precursor to the International Informatics Institute, in October 1982.
For the first four or five years, we simply helped people use computers to make print, half the time consulting and half the time teaching seminars and workshops. I remember some early seminars about whether the new IBM PC-DOS operating system would replace the tried-and-true CP/M. I taught magazine and book publishers about word processing, introduced typographers to computerized composition, and argued with art directors that four-color illustrations could someday be done on a computer. We analyzed the Star workstation for Xerox (the one that Apple used as the basis for the Lisa), created corporate electronic publishing strategies, helped magazine companies buy their first computer systems and designed techniques that let government publishers automatically generate mountains of paperwork from databased information.
THE DESKTOP REVOLUTION
Starting in 1985, we began showing people how to use computers to make cheaper and faster print. I did the sales training at the launch of desktop publishing for Apple's national accounts reps and worked with Agfa, AT&T, IBM, Linotype and Xerox on the development of desktop markets and technologies. For the next six years, we helped some of the smartest publishers in the world take control of their production technology, closing the gap "from brain to mouse to press." We worked with commercial publishers, corporate communications departments and government agencies on four continents to automate text, images and design and to make the best use of the many new ways to produce print.
In the early 90s, the focus changed. Gradually everyone wanted to know how to use computers to make less print, more effective communications. It started in the technical documentation world with high speed laser printing systems customizing publications on demand. Then government agencies began dumping huge data files to optical disks. And now every media company in every industry segment is working on multimedia, CD-ROMs, demand printing, online databases and the World Wide Web. We analyzed and brainstormed the evolution of new media for organizations like John Wiley & Co., Salomon Brothers, American Express, MasterCard and the CIA, and we started writing about interactive communications in the first, paper editions of our web site called Electric-Pages.
To think through these changes in media focus, I taught a course called "Interactive Multimedia" at New York University's Center for Advanced Digital Applications open to credit and non-credit students. You never learn more about something than when you try to teach it, and the classes at NYU have helped me develop a better understanding on the move from batch to interactive communications.
In February of 1994 I gave my first seminar in Oslo about the Mosaic browser and the World Wide Web, and by the middle of 1995 almost all of our research and consulting work was Internet-related. From its media industry beginnings in publishing shops and advertising agencies, the Internet exploded into the consciousness of every business and most homes throughout the developed world.
In February 1997 Mecklermedia put me in charge of developing the curriculum for the INTERNET WORLD conferences, the biggest Internet business conferences in the world. Trying to imagine where the Internet would be six to nine months ahead was a great challenge, and working with the brilliant INTERNET WORLD faculty here and abroad gave me a fabulous perspective on the digital world we're building. After INTERNET WORLD, I developed new conferences for Jupitermedia (Enterprise IT), IDT Group (Outsourcing), Rowland Court Media (Digital Photography) and Diversified Communications (disruptive healthcare innovations).
Continuing the graphic communications revolution, the turn of the 21st century developments in flat panel displays, digital imaging and mobile computing are transforming our visual environment once again. Video is breaking free of the TV sets in our living rooms and finding new forms on our office PCs, in mobile phones, pocket computers, car dashboards, advertising billboards and retail store signs. In January 2005, we started the Pervasive.TV Project to study the commercial, creative and culture importance of video everywhere.
The digitized, globalized, customized, automated, outsourced consumer economy we expect needs more than the hide-bound healthcare oligarchy of doctors' guilds, hospitals, insurance companies, medical device manufacturers and Big Pharma can provide. I originally come at the subject from the informatics angle: artificial intelligence, wearable biosensors, ubiquitous networking are slowly being adapted to medical applications. But as the inefficiencies, conflicts of interest, demographic pressures and rotten customer service get more egregious, society will demand that healthcare industries enter the 21st Century. (See my video podcast "Healthcare Insurrection: Medicine, Money and Expectations" for a six minute rant.)
In 1998 when we broadened the scope of the Graphics Research Laboratory to include all communications technology-driven businesses, we re-launched it as the International Informatics Institute, IN3.ORG. In commerce, we're looking at how different companies, countries and cultures are adopting high technology; in infrastructure we're learning as much as possible about "ubiquitous IP" and Internet appliances that connect everything from factories and offices to TVs, air conditioning systems and automobiles. Since 1978 I estimate that I've given more than 1,500 seminars to some 250,000 people around the world. I've been translated into Japanese, Chinese, French, German, Arabic, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Norwegian, and I expect the latest developments will reach an even wider range of people.
BEFORE THE INSTITUTE
I grew up in my father's small printing company in New Jersey, pulling letterpress proofs and running a Multilith offset press at age 10, setting type (for a penny a line) on an ancient Linotype machine by the time I was 12. I still type that way, with my left hand over the "e" and my right hand roaming the keyboard.
While I was still in high school, I started working for small newspapers just at the time when Compugraphic was selling cheap photocomposition computers to small publishers. Although I wanted to be a journalist, I was the only one who knew anything about printing, so I wound up on the production side most of the time. (It occurred to me recently that from those early days behind a Compugraphic 4961TL in 1972, I've never had a job in which I didn't use a computer every day.)
The 70s were a great time for publishing technology and I worked in dozens of places as an advertising typographer, a computer systems manager, an in-house technology trainer, a salesman and a composition programmer. I went from hot metal to paper tape to OCR to 8-inch then 5.25-inch floppy disks.
By the Spring of 1982, I was vice president for new business development for Expertype, the biggest typesetting company in New York. I had spun off a few companies while there: a sales and marketing operation that sold the Computer Composition International typesetting computers we used and an on-line services subsidiary that was doing database publishing and taking page files over the phone--often at 300 baud, sometimes through ArpaNet---before anyone ever heard of digital prepress and PostScript. In June I wrote a five year strategic plan for the future of the graphic arts business in New York; the next day I started my own research business on the premise that it would be easier to think, write and talk about the great changes happening in technology, business and society than to get caught in them.
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