Introduction: TAROT - a 1995 Vision of the Future

If you are old enough to remember the typical technology of 1995, you will recall that there were no iPods, iPads, or Nexii. The 'laptops' of the day were about as heavy as a grown man could carry without having to catch his/her breath every few feet, and 'mobile' phones were the size and weight of a regular house brick.

Another thing to remember about 1995 is that the internet was hardly known about  -  and certainly not a commonly available service. 

Well, in 1995 a British magazine concentrating on Apple computing launched a competition in which entrants had to imagine computing in the new millennium.

I entered with this design, and won the first prize which was a 'state of the art' Performa 5300 all-in-one Apple Power PC.  Obviously I was delighted.  One of the competition judges was Dick Powell, of the famous Seymourpowell design agency, and one of my heroes even back in those days.

My design was then and is now called TAROT and the notion is built around a screen which is completely flexible, like paper, and yet is a full colour touch sensitive screen.  In 1995 I don't believe flexible screens were very well known, and anyway, even if they were, full colour and touch sensitivity in a flexible screen of this size is only just about to become available to the public, after all these years.

My design was supposed to tap into the TV-based text services at that time available in the UK, such as CEEFAX and others.  When I first thought of this tool I imagined it would work exactly like a TV, except would NOT receive the standard TV channels, but would only receive those text services.  I thought at the time that it would be like an electronic newspaper.

I included a mobile phone; one which worked entirely from voice command, without the requirement for any button keyboard whatsoever.

I included a scanner for capturing information, though it's interesting that at the time there were no cameras small enough to be considered appropriate.

As you would expect, the aesthetics of my design are more similar to the technology of 1995, and therefore much more clunky and chunky compared to today's svelte designs, but that is hardly surprising.

The lack of internet means no email, so I had a fax sender/receiver, which by now of course is completely obsolete.

I didn't have much of an idea about the operating system or apps  -  clearly that environment has exploded in the last few years.

In conclusion, I feel it's fascinating to see what I thought to be 'leading edge' all those years ago   -   sure, the 'roll-up' screen is still leading edge, but absolutely everything else (other than an entirely voice-activated phone,) seems extremely dated now.  For the fun of it, I have included immediately below, the original product spec which I entered with these diagrams, in 1995.  

It's interesting to see that storage is meant to be PCMCIA, which is pretty much kaput, and connectivity I use SCSI, as USB was not around.  Obviously I didn't consider technologies such as Bluetooth or WIFI.  Isn't it amazing how technology has changed so massively over such a relatively short time.

Though it also needs to be remembered that this entry was designed in 1995, as a prediction of the technology in 2000.

For those interested, I drew the thing in Adobe Dimensions originally, but when later versions of Illustrator replaced Dimensions, I developed the graphics in that application.


Information capture and management tool, with sophisticated communications
and data transmission and processing facilities.

With screen translation / capture & processing capability. TAROT receives and
processes vast information resource (stock mkt, travel timetables, weather etc.

GSM digital telephony. No keypad required; 'dialling' as well as answering/initiating
calls is all voice activated. Recorded 'speed dialling' codes are learned and
attached to numbers in contact management software on-board.

Digital fax & data modem, infrared TAROT/TAROT, TAROT/PDA and TAROT/PC
links. Micro-cellular comms replace all physical ports (SCSI / parallel) to PC.

Stylus or finger tip via high-res touch sensitive screen. High-res scanner with
graphics / OCR / Bar code reading capability on board. Voice recognition with
dictation-to-text document creation for large tasks where handwriting would be
onerous. Keyboards available - full size or miniaturised (to scale). I expect the
emergence of a simple shorthand entry keyboard being available for those who
prefer not to auto-dictate.

Functions as a high-res digitising tablet when connected to PC. Hand scanner
direct input to desktop machine as alternative to on-board processing.

Two PCMCIA type 3 slots, any SCSI external devices, (via wireless micro-cellular
comms). Small format (FLASH/SMART technology), 1 reader slot.

Runs industry standard Operating Systems, or EPOC (or similar) PDA
software, including handwriting recognition. Keyboard intensive input remains at
the desktop level, TAROT main purpose is remote capture, review and processing
of imported data. Although keyboard devices are supported they would not be a
functional requirement.

Power is switched on/off by unfolding & folding two halves. Screen unrolls from its
storage bin. The carcase of the machine is kevlar reinforced nylon, with a high
density closed-cell foam skin which provides a non-slip, non-marking protective
outer surface. Highly resistant to impact / weather / abuse.