TPC March Meeting Report
Dr. Steve Bellamy: Thinking Tools: Liberate Yourself from Classical Computing
March 2's meeting was, perhaps, the most unique demonstration/discussion in the history of the TPC. Dr. Steve Bellamy, a Doctor of Computer Sciences and Exercise Physiology, spoke on the subject of Thinking Tools. Himself one of the founding members of the TPC, Dr. Bellamy has often been known as a real "Computer Guy." However, this being his last presentation in Japan, he will probably now best remembered by TPC members as the "Thinking Guy".
Opening with quotations from Voltaire, Rudyard Kipling, and Steve Bellamy, Dr. Bellamy and his two assistants immediately captured the attention of all with a combination of drama, surprise, and intimidation. From the start, Dr. Bellamy stated that he was not interested in the HOW of the function of computers, but only in the WHY we use these computer tools. For Dr. Bellamy, the only computer is the mind. For a Thinking Guy, word processors, spreadsheets, data communications, graphics, and databases are outdated tools, and that the new tools for the 90's are idea generation, mind mapping, and goal setting.
The first thinking tool was the pencil. When Dr. Bellamy passed out pencils to each person in the audience, he was trying to illustrate that the pencil is a thinking tool which is much more suited to representing the immediate ideas of the mind computer, and that the outdated tools of the PC break apart and categorize our ideas rather than help to generate them.
Remember-Recall-Recombine. All achievements start out as ideas. All ideas are recombined memories. A decision is where you get tired. A person who can generate ideas is someone who can remember a great many things and figure out what parts of those pieces of memory can be recombined into something better and more powerful. Idea generation is an exciting and energizing process because in its essence it is the process of things making sense. But once you have an idea, getting it down into some concrete shape is a process Dr. Bellamy calls Mind Mapping.
If you can draw it you can do it. A picture is worth a thousand words.
Finally, for an idea to become an achievement, one needs to have effective goals. These goals must fit five rules to be effective. They must be smart, specific, measurable, achievable (realistic), and within a timeframe. If a powerful idea is mapped and clearly outlined and effective goals are set to achieve the powerful idea, then that is when Things Start Happening.
So what does all of this have to do with the PC? Dr. Bellamy then demonstrated three software tools which he uses. These are: Idea Fisher, Inspiration, and Echo.
Idea Fisher is an idea generator, which associates and combines over 750,000 words, ideas, and associations. Having menus such as Idea Bank and Question Bank, it is a useful tool for problem solving, or solution finding. As Dr. Bellamy said, "I am not against smoking, but for fresh air."
By taking as an example the word plastic, Dr. Bellamy showed that Idea Fisher can immediately associate a word with many things, such as bags, bottles, cases, and even such things as credit cards, personalities, and flamingoes. These association were found quickly and easily, and words, ideas, and associations can easily be added into Idea Fisher if they are not already there.
Inspiration, was a dynamic and visual outliner. Similar to a flow chart, blocks created on screen can be linked with other blocks, and the shapes can be changed to show other similarities, dissimilarities, and associations. Then, after the diagram is done, with the click of one drop menu, the diagram becomes a verbal outline. By using Inspiration, one can take a group of ideas, map out their associations, and create shape to these ideas. Once the ideas form a picture, then one can proceed to the task of setting goals, and move forward to achieving them.
With Echo, outlines are taken one step further. While Echo can be an effective personal information manager, or database, its power lies in its cross-referencing capability. As an appointment book, it can not only keep track of a personal calendar, but can link each reference to people, resources, or projects. These links can be to any document, data record, or other item. Thus, it is possible to link an appointment with a stockbroker with a listing of stock prices linked to a communications package, or an appointment with a designer to a database of photographic images created with a graphics program.
The total cost for these three powerful applications is less than US$250. While Idea Fisher sold for $9000 in 1988, when it was introduced, it is now $99. Dr. Bellamy strongly emphasized that these tools for the mind are essential if people are to use computers as an extension of our own mind computers. Finally, Dr. Bellamy closed with one final concept. "Let's make the computer the bicycle of the mind."
Scheduled for April 6 is A.J. Peralta, of La Muz. La Muz is the Japan representative of Virtus, who is a prominent U.S. developer of virtual reality applications. Their two main applications, Virtus VR and Walk Through, are extremely simple and elegant pieces of VR software which are also virtually impossible to explain properly. To call them CAD software is incorrect, but they are most commonly used in combination with CAD software. Walk Through is actually most commonly used in the movie industry, to create sets in 3D images and to test run all of the angles which are to be used in shooting a scene. These virtual sets can be created simply and easily, enabling a director to map out all of the angles he will use before actually creating the sets. In this way, parts of sets which are never shot anyway need never be created.
The first film shot after using Walk Through was The Abyss, for which the software was actually created. Since then, many directors have used Walk Through, including Jim Cameron (The Abyss, Terminator II), Sidney Pollack, and Steven Spielberg (Jurassic Park). In any case, Virtus VR and Walk Through are innovative virtual reality applications, which enable users to create and test 3D spaces, walk through them, and make detailed notations of the dimensions of these spaces. Imported into a CAD application, the diagrams can be made much more simply and cast effectively.
May 11 is tentatively a presentation by National Instruments, which has an excellent object oriented software package called LabView. With LabView, one can easily create a program which can run an oscilloscope, gauge a thermometer, or many other devices. Most of the devices which have been created by LabView have been applications in the medical profession, and the demonstration should show how the software can run such devices remotely. After the demonstration, participants will be able to understand how easy it is for programs to be created which can allow a doctor to monitor a patient's heartrate from his computer at home. Very impressive demonstration.
In June, I will try to get a demonstration of LogoVista and perhaps one other program. The two will be under an umbrella called Translation Revisited. Logovista is a program which translates from Japanese to English, and vice versa. The other program should be a program which translates a DOS file to a MAC, or DOS to UNIX. I need to know what programs are the most prominent in these areas, and who might be able to demonstrate them effectively. It is important that we computer users think about how data is translated using these types of translation programs, for as the quality of machine translation improves, we will be more able to exchange data transparently between operating systems and languages.
Finally, in July, I am planning a round table demonstration by a number of PDA manufacturers. I am thinking of PDAs in a very general sense, and am thinking of all types of small hand-held devices which can be linked to computers via PCMCIA. I am hoping to invite people to show the Newton, HP's hand computer, Sharp's Zaurus, and products by Casio and SONY.
As always, if anyone has any contacts with companies which are mentioned here, or if there are other possible speakers with expertise in these areas, or any other products or services which deserve demonstration, then please contact me. I need your ideas and assistance. Thanks.
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