Those who understand the future have a strong grasp on the past

May 18, 2010

I recently interviewed a guy who walked into my office with what looked like every tattered page of my old Blog, complete with highlighting and bound together with a rubber band. Clearly, he had been doing his homework. I was impressed. This was going to be a good interview.

And it was a good interview, except when he asked me why I felt qualified to blog about the future of television. I couldn’t believe he missed that in my blogs. If he had read closely he could have connected the dots between where I am today and where I started.  

It started twenty-six years ago when I first met my father-in-law. He wanted to know what I thought the future looked like, a trap question if I ever heard one. After all, his daughter had been dating a medical student until I showed up. I was just a washed up hockey player who held little interest in med school. Everything I owned was in my car. Future? I had no idea. (Note to potential son-in-laws: It never pays to be inexact about your future when asked.)

Those of us who didn’t go to med school got into creating software.  And when we weren’t developing software, we were watching television. Then we started using bulletin boards or using ELM to send messages to other software types. This was the Internet before the Internet as most of us know it. The television was always on in the background, waiting, lurking, or being used for video games.

Long about 1992 it became clear to me that the PC and television were on a collision course of unprecedented proportions. Factor in the inherent connectivity created by the Internet and there you have it. Back in the very early 90’s, electronics giant Philips created a technology known as CDi (Compact Disc Interactive). I was president of Interactive Resources, the leading CDi authoring tools and plug-in company. Had the CDi technology been connected to the Internet we’d all have one today. Instead, it wasn’t. Most titles tended to be niche in nature. Very few people purchased the titles which were created for the general populous. CDi thrived briefly in Europe only to be rendered obsolete by the Web.

Fast forward eighteen years and here I am living the future of television, a connected place where consumers can get content on any screen from any source.

PS The guy didn’t get the job.