Back in the early 1990s, I had the opportunity to be part of a CBS News – 48 Hours segment and predicted, “The office of the future will have four wheels, not four walls.” Now, the “office” can fit in the palm of your hand.
It was 1990 when our office received a call one morning from a producer of the CBS News program 48 Hours. In those days, 48 Hours was a news magazine, not a murder mystery program, so being featured on the show had a very different meaning. The crew had just completed a shoot for an episode entitled Fast Times, which focused on the increasingly fast pace of life at the time, when they came across a newspaper article on my mobile office and thought it would be a good segment to add. They spent an entire day following me and my hectic, on-the-go work life. It was a wild experience, and the integrity of their reporting was most impressive. Nothing was staged. If they missed a shot, there were no “do-overs” as everything had to be 100% authentic.
These were the days just after the introduction of the Motorola MicroTAC flip phone, and my new car was fully outfitted as a mobile office complete with a battery powered Mitsubishi fax machine and port for the modem on my laptop built into the armrest. As the CEO of a high tech distribution company, my mantra at the time was, “The office of the future will have four wheels, not four walls.” Keep in mind this was well before the introduction of the feature phone, and the first iPhone didn’t come along until 17 years later.
The mobile office concept was a precursor for the miracle of the smart phone we often take for granted today. We were moving from phones that took up the entire trunk of a car, to suitcase phones, then brick phones and flip phones. Costs were being reduced almost as fast as the footprint of these devices, and early dial-up services such as CompuServe and AOL were gaining traction. It didn’t take much to see where the future was headed. Even so, it is amazing how much progress technology has made since then. Now that the “future” is here; the office is no longer limited to walls, wheels or any other constraint, as almost all the tools necessary to do business can fit in your pocket.
Andy Warhol is credited with the words, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” I must tell you that being featured on a major network news magazine before we had 500 channels to look at and time shift was not even a concept certainly qualifies. I remember traveling on business, when a bellman asked, “Where’s your wife” as the show gave him the impression she always traveled with me. We were on a family holiday on Coronado Island and someone saw us and stopped their bicycle to lecture me on spending more time with my family. (I now try to make up for it by being very dedicated to spending quality time with my grandkids.) There are many more stories I could tell over a beer, but people still talk about the show to this day and how it provided some vision of what the future would hold in terms of increased productivity and competitiveness for users of technology.
This was a significant event in the middle of a life in technology that set the stage for all that came after. It’s clear to me now that the mobile office with four wheels, while significant at the time, was merely a step toward shaping technology into what it is now—a mobile office in the palm of our hands—and I marvel at what the road ahead will bring.
Stay tuned for more observations and experiences to share.