I AM NOT A BIG BELIEVER IN LONG INTRODUCTIONS, since I ’ d like to get into the subject of the book as soon as possible, and hopefully you do too! But I ’ d like to share a few words about the motivation for this book, and what I hope you ’ ll get out of it. The mobile phone has become an intimate part of everyday life for billions of humans around the globe, and its infl uence is still growing. And these are magical devices, not only capable of conveying conversations to wherever we are without an inch of copper to constrain them, but which can now also allow immediate and reliable access to the vast online repository of information and services that we call the Web.
I occasionally need to step back from this concept and marvel at how amazing it is. Who would have thought, even 30 years ago, that we could really have carried around so much information (not to mention disinformation!), so many services, and so many relationships — in the palm of our hand. In 1978, Douglas Adams wrote “ The Hitchhiker ’ s Guide to the Galaxy, ” a cult science - fi ction comedy featuring an astonishing book that contained guidance, advice, and everything there was to know about the galaxy but which could be stored in a small satchel.
A mere 30 years later, we have such a thing — it ’ s just that we ’ ve chosen to call it “ the mobile phone ,” it ’ s even smaller, and it works by coming equipped with a powerful and capable web browser.
My interest in the topic started in 1997, when I fi rst saw a demo of an early version of Unwired Planet ’ s HDML browser on a chunky Palm device. It was slow, monochromatic, and entirely textual, but I was suddenly struck by the thought that these mobile devices might become something more than just phones, and that my other technology passion at the time — the nascent web — might somehow be able to escape its sedentary bounds and rise to Adams ’ challenge. I could picture a Web which was somehow “ topological ” and which was stretched across the landscape
like a giant knowledgeable grid of contextual relevance.
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