Advice for Vision Pro doubters

New York Times, December 8, 1985

The Executive Computer

"Was the laptop dream an illusion, then? Or was the problem merely that the right combination of features for such lightweight computers had not yet materialized? The answer probably is a combination of both views. For the most part, the portable computer is a dream machine for the few.

"The limitations come from what people actually do with computers, as opposed to what the marketers expect them to do. On the whole, people don’t want to lug a computer with them to the beach or on a train to while away hours they would rather spend reading the sports or business section of the newspaper. Somehow, the microcomputer industry has assumed that everyone would love to have a keyboard grafted on as an extension of their fingers. It just is not so.

"The proponents of portables stoutly maintain that the stumbling block to a computer in every attache case is price. Right now, a laptop computer costs considerably more than the equivalent desktop version.

“Yes, there are a lot of people who would like to be able to work on a computer at home. But would they really want to carry one back from the office with them? It would be much simpler to take home a few floppy disks tucked into an attache case. For the majority of consumers, a second computer for the home office is usually an inexpensive clone of the one at work. Not only is such an alternative more convenient, but it is more cost effective as well. In fact, one ends up with better technology.”



I guess the NYTimes practiced misinformation with misdirection and poor analysis even back then!


uh, Katie - that article was in the NY Times in 1985, not 2005…


So everyone would not “love to have a keyboard grafted on as an extension of their fingers,” but they would love to have a headset that looks like a bloated electric set of ski goggles grafted on as an extension of their head?

And why “doubters?” Good grief, can’t some folks just “dislike” or “not want?” E.g., I’m not interested in buying an electric car, Crocs, or Apple TV but I hardly “doubt” them.

It seems that too much opinion/debate/argument language these days is framed in an Us vs. Them perspective. I’m tired of always having to take sides.


I see a lot of people (don’t read the comments) who believe that because they do not want or dislike AVP/Oculus that they think VR/AR is dead, will never work, etc. I think this is addressed to those people.

I do think they are the future, but not until they get far smaller and more comfortable. That doesn’t seem possible for at least another decade.

It’s really too early to know if the great, great, grandchildren of the AVP will be a success or failure. Right now most people are judging it by a combination of Apple advertisements and news reports of “organ donors” wearing Vision Pros while skateboarding though cities or driving their car on the freeway.


Of course no-one wants a keyboard grafted to their fingers or really a headset grafted to their head either, but that’s a stupid way of framing it.

The deep challenge in all this is to harness a whole range of technologies to do useful things for people and to extend what it might even be possible for people to do. I’m not looking for a faster horse, or even better automobile, but whatever might come that is going to give the freedom of personal transport without the costs of the motor car. In computing, I am disappointed that we still start designing systems around a screen (or screens), mice and keyboards. In the 1980s, I really thought we’d have abandoned QWERTY keyboards by now, but I guess there is a lot of personal investment in existing skills, and IT is really run by developers, not users, so more time is spent developing keyboard shortcuts for jazzed up text editors than is spent trying to come up with something that replaces text editing altogether.

The future won’t look or work like the Vision Pro any more than a airliner looks or works like an early biplane, but trying to make a direct comparison between the VP and “traditional” devices is as sensible as complaining that aircraft aren’t very easy to parallel park.

I applaud Apple for trying to create (or at least establish) a new computing paradigm with “spatial computing”. I look forward to seeing what emerges. Try, fail, tray again, fail better is how great things develop.

Ha! Good catch — I stared at the article and wrote the wrong date :blush:



Speaking about a blanket category of “Vision Pro doubters” isn’t very useful or enlightening.

There’s a vast gulf between doubts about:

  • the actual usefulness of the device Apple is shipping now except perhaps in a few niches and as an expensive toy for well-heeled individuals

  • whether AR and the ideas animating the Vision Pro will ever lead to anything practical or widely used

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I vaguely remember when Segway was a new thing, and there were a number of “futurist” types talking about how people riding these things was the future of urban centers.

Video phones (non-cellular) existed in the 1990s. They never caught on.

In the early 2010s I remember having a laptop dock for one of my Motorola phones that could run a tablet version of Android - on the phone itself. It was pretty cool, but it was pretty much one-and-done.

There’s a whole technology graveyard over the decades and centuries of cool stuff that never really caught on.

None of that is to say that AVP won’t catch on, or that it won’t be an awesome new product category - but the mere existence of the product doesn’t prove that it’s “the future.” It’s too early to tell one way or the other.


Do we really need color monitors? My green text on black background is sexy.


I remember Hercules monochrome. Bizarre screen resolution that a lot of software didn’t work properly with, and they had the amber-on-black scheme instead of green-on-black. :slight_smile:

You must be a sysadmin :wink:

This is quite insightful, I think.

I’m actually quite surprised how many people (here and on other tech sites) who are saying “this will never be a thing”. Technological advancement has already proven these people wrong, I think. That being said, those who think THIS DEVICE is not the future I think are quite on the money. But here’s the thing – I think Apple agrees.

They had to ship eventually…this will help as they get real-world-use feedback. It will also prod innovation by other companies (I haven’t written off Meta by any means, and I think it would be dangerous to assume Meta isn’t still in this).

Competition is great and I can’t wait to see Apple Vision version 2!